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Mythology meets comics in Nandan Purkayastha’s pen and ink art

NIFT graduate Nandan Purkayashtha draws magical stories — using a ballpoint pen and watercolours — that are influenced by Indian folklore and western comics

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Jun 25, 2016 13:53 IST
Soma Das
Soma Das
Hindustan Times
Nandan Purkayastha,Art Musings,Soma Das
Arhant, Acrylic on canvas (2015)

NIFT graduate Nandan Purkayashtha draws magical stories — using a ballpoint pen and watercolours — that are influenced by Indian folklore and western comics.

Kolkata-based artist Nandan Purkayastha’s (30) works are populated by bizarre characters and reflect a surreal world. Amid intricate patterns, you spot men wearing robes and floating in thin air (you never see the legs). There are also outlines of birds, elephants and horses. Interwoven with each other (it’s hard to make out where the human figures end and the animals begin), they create an effect of magic realism.They’re mostly monochromatic, though colours do make fleeting appearances.

The Lucky Wonders, Nandan Purkayastha, Acrylic pen and ink on paper (2016)

Purkayastha’s recent works are on display as part of a group exhibition called Quarto. “The tiger has been part of my mythological series in which I explore the Goddess Durga. Buddha came at a time of contemplation between projects. I created it on request but ended up exploring it through many works. It seems to sit well among my regular cast of characters,” says Purkayastha.

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A graduate from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Purkayastha grew up in Assam surrounded by folklore, and reading western cowboy comics. Both influenced his style of painting: his art merges stories from the east with the drawing style of western comics. For inspiration, he admits to unconsciously sourcing narratives from childhood. “Durga Puja and Bihu were essential to my upbringing. So, they naturally appear in my paintings. Besides that, my works look into the human psyche. I sometimes play with motifs of a superhero or an aeroplane to touch upon a certain thought process or socio-political references, but the dominating narrative remains mythological,” he says.

Angels of Surplus, Acrylic pen & ink on canvas (2016); From Phases to Faces, Acrylic pen and ink on paper (2016)

Purkayastha’s visual language reflects his background in textile design, especially the patterns that resemble the texture of fabric. “It was during a six-month sabbatical at NIFT that I developed my style. I was exposed to design and line drawing in my foundation year, but it was the isolation of those months that drove me to express myself through black and white experiments in pen and ink,” he says. His tool is a rotring pen (a technical pen) which, he feels, is ideal for line drawing and forms.

Purkayastha’s canvases are large (most are 40 inch x 30 inch) and it takes him almost a month to complete a painting. “My work requires a tremendous amount of detailing and you will find me working two or three canvases at any given time,” he says.

Nandan Purkayastha

His latest works feature bursts of colour amid a stark black-and-white painting; he attributes it to a fascination with certain colours. “I prefer working with pen and ink and watercolours because as a medium it helps the detailed work and the monochromes suit my dramatic themes. Sometimes I get attached to a particular colour, so, you see a lot of that in my work,” he says.

While Purkayastha’s works are intricate, they don’t have a message. “I leave it to the viewer to engage and think about it,” he says.

Quarto is on view till July 16
At: Art Musings, Admiralty Building, Colaba Cross Lane
Call: 2216 3339

First Published: Jun 22, 2016 00:00 IST