Art was always my true calling since the earliest stage of my life. Me and my paintings made up my world. But then in the middle, the strings got detached somehow and there fell a void all over, says Kolkata-based seasoned artist Saumi Nandy. Given to abstract and figurative forms of art, she also dabbles in penning subtle poetry. Wandering around the greater part of Europe as well as America, she has consciously amassed abstract ideas wherever they impressed her eyes. As a result since 2011 onwards, abstraction became the sole permanent ingredient of her art. “I then started ascribing my art as ‘unsung poetry on canvas dealing with raw emotions’. I found a lot of joy in the medium,” she frankly admits but her personal satisfaction soon took a beating when she confronted difficulty as viewers bluntly blurted out their inconvenience to comprehend the genre she portrays. “I’d thoroughly explain the subject and my hitherto journey to them and entreat every visitor to try and understand my kind of art through my eyes. But more often than not, the laborious attempt would be lost in vain. Hence I opted to merge the mundane with streaks of surrealism so that it penetrates the general psyche. To me, art was fine but I wanted to see it around me in my everyday life at the same time,” she says. Thus Black & White was born, the theme of her latest solo exposition of beautifully presented utility products, which is also her USP, at the southern gallery of Kolkata’s Academy of Fine Arts.
“The textiles that I wear, the coffee mugs I drink, saris that I drape around, bags that I carry, coasters and cushion covers I use I mean I started putting in an array of quaint knickknacks at my house. My primary aim was to convert each single object of daily-use into an eye-catching creation of art. As for the palette, black and white are my favourite shades with dashes of embellishing red, flowering as a symbol of desire and passion,” Nandy says.
Having studied art periodically under the tutelage of her private tutor Samir Ghosh for 12 long years, Nandy initially dreamt of chasing her passion as her profession. For she knows it is a “rare golden combo” and that “we have one life to live to fulfill our goals.” But often what man proposes, God disposes. Academics overtook her priority and art was pushed to one corner with its embers still smouldering deep down. “I went to Scotland to pursue higher studies and bagged a Masters degree in Human Resources only to come back and join a reputed MNC in the corporate sector. But all along this journey, my conscience knew I was badly missing my art,” she confesses. Marriage had further propelled her to settle down in the US but she was determined to gamble with a vital decision of her life. Nandy eventually chose to quit a high-salaried job and immerse herself in the world of aesthetics for good. “I turned into a full-timer overnight, soaking in the essence of colours and designs with a view to plunge headlong into the ever irresistible river of art,” she recalls. Ties, fridge magnets, saris, scarves, dupattas and so on form a part of her eclectic oeuvre. “I also yearn to design wine glasses and tea cups too,” she chips in.
Retailing most of her inventory via the distinguished brand called Roong, Nandy also courts customers from Bengaluru, Delhi and overseas from a set of online orders. Affordably priced between Rs 1,200 to Rs 10,000, the items come in a diverse variety. Explaining the wide range of labeling, the artist reasons: “See, these are all lifestyle fashion products which change with the setting trends. So buyers won’t be interested in investing much if the cost is high-end. It must fit into every budget I feel.” Inducing a novelty factor in her designs, Nandy ensures nothing is repeated in her store. Employing vegetable dyes and one-of-a-kind block prints in her handmade art, she says that all her blocks are specially carved out by her block makers and have limited editions. “They are not available in the market. I personally design them. I believe in selling quality rather than quantity,” she says. “At first, I draw out the motifs and patterns over a sheet of paper and then scan the same and get them printed on the surface of ceramic mugs. I have my own coterie of printers and artisans working for me,” she says, outlining the method behind her craft.
In the West, Nandy says, designing abstract textiles is very much in vogue. Considering the usually tepid response that the Kolkata market generates, Nandy received an overwhelming reaction. “About culture-capital, the critics always observe that albeit there are uncountable aficionados to keenly appreciate art, there is a dearth of enough encouraging purchasers to collect products from the display table,” she says. Talks are on as of now to carry forward the same exhibition to down south in Bengaluru sometime in the near future.
Lacing her work with myriad shadows of nostalgia, Nandy imports artistic fodder from her daily sightings across the length and breadth of a bustling metropolis steeped in centuries-old vintage charm. The images of crows’ conference along mazy cable-lines and telephone wires, the landmark Howrah Bridge, a beeline of ants on weathered walls, hand-drawn rickshaws, yellow cabs, all this and much more charge the artist’s grey cells with indelible impressions. “You know, every tourist wants to grab a keepsake or a memento for fond memories from the haven he/she takes a trip to. And for this purpose, picture-postcards and fridge magnets are a perfect bet. I have always lured my foreign friends with such tokens of love. These cute, light-weight memorabilia of historical significance are easy to take back home as they mean no excess baggage and are comfortably portable on board,” she corroborates.
Having unveiled seven-eight kinds of utility items and a bulk of 20 abstract paintings in acrylic chromes on canvas as well as in pen-n-ink on paper, Nandy also resorted to a special artistic technique called printmaking for the recent exhibition. Therefore painstaking and interesting creations like linocuts, woodcuts, zinc plates and solar plates were also inclusive in the line-up.
“Lines crisscross, dots connect and geometric shapes form into stories that tell the tale of our daily lives. That is what my art is composed of. Fact is that life is but a collage of sun and shade, of earthy hues of blue, green, black, red and grey,” depicts the curator who lives across two continents.