Life’s best friendships are made in college. Many of those camaraderies are lost along the way but that was not the case for Scarlet—a group of artists who have been working together for the last two decades.
In 1999, 11 aspiring art students from the Government College of Art & Craft, Kolkata, formed the group to motivate each other and negotiate the expensive world of art exhibitions.
The name, Scarlet, was chosen randomly from a palette of heavily used colours.
Soon after college, the group dispersed to follow their own careers. They took up jobs and spread across the country.
Pritam Kanjilal and Biplab Kar work as teachers in government schools in Purulia and Bankura; Santanu Chakraborty works in faraway Chattisgarh, while Jatisankar Bhowmick designs for a private company in Kolkata.
Santanu Bag has his studio in Midnapore, while work has taken Umakanto Das to Haryana. There have been others like Sudipta Majumdar who came from a junior batch and joined midway.
In June this year, the group showcased its work at The Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata. Their output ranged from paintings in water colour, acrylic, tempura, oil and dry pastel, as well as sculptures made from items such as matchsticks.
“This is our 11th exhibit,” says Chakraborty, adding, “We now want to reach out to the artists in smaller towns and bring them into the fold so that we can reach a larger audience.”
The group met in October again to work on an interactive artists’ camp. Scarlet zeroed in on Purulia as the location for the camp that would encourage local artists.
The first workshop will be held in December and subsequently an exhibition of the paintings will be organised at The Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata, in June 2020.
In his series named Selfie sessions with dreamland floras, Kanjilal visualised floral presence—flowers, mushrooms, stems, anemonic forms—using basic elements of the craft, shapes and textures, and superimposed them with images of himself taking a selfie, in a sarcastic rebuke on pop culture.
“These visuals are the documents of an interactive journey from nothing to beauty and from beauty to the joy of celebration of my existence,” he explains.
Das’ series Monologue explores the relation between space and time. It comes alive in a language of abstraction, as if in a conversation between extreme light and optimum dark where the two have been bridged by various tonal variations of light. One can lose oneself in the heightened blaze and shadowed dreams.
In his thematic work, Chakraborty plays with Indian aesthetical values by juxtaposing lines, colours, and expected balances to explore hidden identities in known objects. He tells ethnic stories but breaks the traditional style with his colourful series.
Kar deals obsessively in birth and death. Through his intricate smaller pictures connected by strong lines and the robust use of red, he explores how the cycle of birth and death is the biggest mystery.
Bhowmick’s rural scenes in dry pastel were charming. Bag admits that he surrenders to an invisible hand soon after starting work on a new project.
His canvases reflect the darkest social truths, while Majumdar’s capture of constructive space and form with a common tool of destruction—matchsticks—is simple yet impactful.