Artist and painter Bhaskar Chitrakar renders Frida Kahlo in the frank and gently humorous style characteristic of art from the Kalighat region of Kolkata. To the lay person, a Kalighat painting is charmingly naive in its apparent lack of sophistication and technique, closer to children’s drawings than serious art. But this is exactly what makes this art valuable. Rendered with clean lines and a total disregard for proportion or dimension, the paintings have a noticeably flat appearance and capture the happy, the hilarious, the sensual, the messy, the ugly and the vicious with equally enthusiastic candour. Bhaskar’s desi twist on everyone’s favorite artist and rebel is both funny and touching; in my favorite painting she’s taking a cheeky selfie. Available here at Rs 1700 a piece. At 8.5 x 11.5 inches these are small and will fit even on a busy wall. Individual links to my favorite pieces are posted below. The limited edition series is called Kali- Kahlo. The medium is digital print on archival paper.
I cannot wait to hang these up in my home. I collect a lot of folk, tribal and local art in keeping with my vision of a home done up entirely in indigenous decor, a goal I’m far from meeting. Whenever you can, please do visit these artisans at the haats, melas and exhibitions they show at, and try to invest in a keepsake. So many art forms in India are vanishing under the pressures of globalisation, a devastatingly homogenising force that’s increasingly compelling our aesthetic choices to sameness. (Illustrated best by Monica Ali’s comment on the dulling effects of globalisation in her book, Brick Lane– ‘The boys wore jeans, or tracksuits with big ticks on them as if their clothing had been marked by a teacher who valued, above all else, conformity.’) Governmental and consumer apathy and inflation don’t help, rendering craft-based livelihoods unsustainable. Your purchase, done with preferably no bargaining, is a vote of confidence and makes a huge difference.