In Delhi, finally
Veteran artist from Bengal Robin Mondal takes a journey down memory lane.
DESIGN FOR MURAL Robin Mondal's creation on view at Delhi Art Gallery.
Delhi art lovers have a chance to see a retrospective of Robin Mondal's works at the Delhi Art Gallery. The first generation artist, whose works and life have been captured in a book penned by Santo Dutta and published by the gallery itself, is now for all to see. The book is titled "After the Fall: Time, Life and Art of Robin Mondal". It contains his works from 1955 onwards and was recently launched in New Delhi.
Recalls the veteran artist who resides in Kolkata, "I wouldn't have thought of such a book some 20 years ago. But I also wanted to document the stalwarts of my age. So in 1969, I wrote a book called `14 Contemporary Artists of Calcutta' that included artists like Nikhil Biswas, Somnath Hore, Sunil Das to Bikash Bhattacharya. Those days no one would buy a book on art. So I kept six rupees as its price. I wanted to know people's reaction to it. The book was a major success."
Mondal, a 1929-born artist saw the worst times in the realm of art. But he couldn't stop himself portraying what he saw. "I observed it personally that during the Bengal famine the rice from the villages would be carried to feed the British military soldiers and the poor people kept suffering. So it was not a natural but a man-made famine, something which I portrayed in my works too and something that is historically proved as well."
His own man
Mondal suffered from a severe knee problem in childhood. It kept him from studies for four years.
"During this period I would keep on drawing the situations I used to be in. When my aunt saw me drawing all the time, she suggested to my father to get me admitted in an art college but as I was not a Matriculate, I couldn't manage to get admission. And taking art as a career was like committing hara-kiri, so I somehow did my graduation in Commerce but could never leave the love for art."
Mondal also taught in a school for two years apart from helping his father, himself an art lover, in his factory. He also worked as an illustrator for `Jansevak', now defunct newspaper of Calcutta. He did odd jobs too.
The artist did not join the Progressive Art Group but went on to form his group of artists called `Calcutta Painters' in 1962. Recalls the veteran nostalgically, "This group consisted of excellent painters of Bengal like Nikhil Biswas, Vijayender Choudhary, Gopal Sanyal, Bimal Banerjee and some of them not very well known. We did our first group show in 1963 at AIFACS in Delhi. That was my first encounter with Delhi. I ran the group successfully for 18 years." His group still exists but is "not as active".
Like any other master of art, Mondal has his own regrets about the seemingly high market for art today.
"No doubt the art market is changing now. But the change hasn't come with substance. People are buying that art just to decorate their walls and that's why serious works of art don't sell."
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