HYDERABAD: Kolkata-based Ashoke Mullick who was born and raised in a joint family, has elements of his holistic upbringing with a strong maternal hand depicted in his paintings. Speaking about his paintings, he explains, “I have a lot of memories, just like everybody else does. That is where I drew my inspiration from while painting this collection. If you see, in some there are women painted in the Rajasthani style. For a while I was in Rajasthan and was there during the kite festival. So you’ll see, I’ve painted a woman standing in front of a tree with kites stuck in it. These are the kind of memories that are echoed in my drawings. ”
Mullick, who completed his graduation from the Government College of Art and Craft, was awarded the Cultural Scholarship by the Department of Culture, Government of India during 1981-82. His works were featured in numerous group shows across the country and abroad, including Calling Bengal at Nitanjali Art Gallery, New Delhi; Art of Drawing curated by Shuvaprasanna Bhattacharya at Gallery Art and Soul, Mumbai; Art against Terrorism, Aakriti Art Gallery, Kolkata; Freedom, Galerie La Mere, Kolkata; besides shows abroad in New York, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Germany, Stuttgart and Sweden.
Retracing his way back up his memory path, he shares, “As a young five-year-old, I was playing around in my father’s commercial studio, watching how he added a finishing touch to a job for the advertising agency. I began to colour my drawings from his poster colours and thus my artistic voyage began.”
That memory burns bright in the artist’s mind’s eye and can be seen as a part of that five-year old’s childish fascination in most of Mullick’s collection. “That memory of mine has become crucial to my being able to function as a painter at all times, during periods of anxiety, creativity, and even sickness.”
However, it isn’t just his family that made the difference to Mullick as an artist; it was also his place of birth.
“Calcutta, where I was born, has a complicated, dense web of valences that is very much a part of my growing up — gaining an identity, forming a consciousness of myself within that identity. Its mid-summer streets, the displaced forms of departures, arrivals, farewells, exile, the city’s changing architectures, belongings, and the indomitable spirit of the burgeoning middle-class, all of them built my painted space. Along with nuances of language, it is the city in which I live that becomes a part of my recitals laced with irony and humour.”
A poetic explanation, yet Mullick’s paintings are anything but poetry. They are, on the other hand, a discovery of himself through his travels into his past. More like a short story written in paint, the currently on exhibition — Conversation in time, seems like Mullick’s conversation with his past. “I believe my work bears a style and character that stems from a desire to create a certain dimension. Often my portraits of the family have a touch of fantasy and satire.
Taken together they become a kind of human drama. In all this I try to sustain a touch of humour and a sense of composition. Couples, fishermen, a lonely woman, a nude man, jewellery, prostitutes, mask, primitive men and so on, seen in one’s childhood, all become a part of the nostalgic experience as well as the imagination, which are reflected in distorted forms on the canvas.”
The exhibition is on at the Kalakriti Art Gallery in Banjara Hills, till March 5.