A romanticist in our midst
An artist in his attempt to paint his fascination for nature on canvas has brought a breath of fresh air into the dormant art scene of the state, which is reeling under the pre-dominant influence of abstract art. Meet Jayanta Rongpi, a banker whose chief interest is to portray on the canvas the age old connections of man with nature. His solo art exhibition was recently held at the State Artist Guild Gallery, Chandmari. The entire assemblage of the artworks is boosting energetic, self-motivated and active colour and tonal contrast.
The first thing which strikes you as soon as you enter the gallery is the brightness which emanates from his art works. Working chiefly on landscapes, Rongpi has managed to bring out the beauty of Karbi nature with his extensive use of the green and blue pastels. As such, his piece entitled, Hills Far Away 1 is markedly different for the use of dark colours. Rongpi explains, “I go to remote places as part of my job. During the monsoon season, the sky is cloudy and the colours of the landscape gets toned down. There is a beauty in the silvery hues at that time and that has affected me”.
A banker who has dabbled extensively in paint since his childhood, Rongpi could manage to take it up seriously only after he enrolled himself in Guwahati University for higher studies. Surprisingly, the artist does not just romanticise with nature through his art but is also deeply concerned about the ecology and environment. He says, “Environment and nature is not fashionable in today’s art. As artists, we have got a great role to play. Where are we heading to in the name of development? As an artist and as an individual, that is my chief concern”.
For an artist who admits that he is still weak from the technical side, his art work is marked for its spontaneity, vibrancy and his respect for the simple existence of the rural people. This is understandable for Rongpi does not have any target audience in mind. As he says, “I never aim for a particular class of people. I want my art to communicate with the laymen. I really feel that the rural people understand nature more than urban people and in a way, my works are a sort of radical attempt against the trend of urban society looking down upon the rural populace”.
Ronpi’s tryst with nature occurred when he chanced upon an environment based news magazine ‘Down to Earth’ in 1994. With a lot of spare time in his hands and nothing worthwhile to do, he read it and as he says, “It changed my way of looking at things”. Since then, the artist who used to paint abstract arts started etching his romantic rendezvous with nature on canvas. The refined artist says, “What is abstract art? It is nothing but a product of the western society. In a way, it just reflects their environment which is mental isolation. It’s not that I don’t like abstract art. I really do but if I try to get influenced by pioneering abstract artists, I will be fooling myself. We’ve got so many things to portray and it is high time we should. They (western artists) are reflecting their own society and we’ve got ours to mirror”.
The artist’s native place, Karbi Anglong is more in the news for bloodshed and ethnic cleansing than it is for nature. It is this very concept which Rongpi wants to change. “I was deeply affected by the ethnic cleansing episodes in Karbi Anglong. But then the native people are very simple and the entire carnage was the result of a few immoral individuals. Why should the indigenous people suffer for that?” The artist does not want to popularise the splendour only in Guwahati but throughout the world. In one of his art exhibitions held in Paris, the local media labelled his art works as an echo of the Other side of India.
Though his works are bound to become more matured with the passage of time, Rongpi has succeeded in what he sets out to do. If art indeed reflects the environment of the artist, then it is high time that our artists take a clue from Rongpi’s book and start the process of romanticising all over again.
– Aiyushman Dutta