If Rathin Barman focuses on a central concern - that of the aching memories of the uprooted around their lost home - Prasanta Acharjee is content to explore form in nimble ways. The artists thus represent two entirely different approaches to art.
Barman understands that 'home' isn't so much an address as an idea; a metaphor for security; a nursery of memories, fond though fading, increasingly hallowed by time the more distant they are. For those uprooted by persecution, as were the people who streamed into the west from eastern Bengal, the loss of home may mean a deeper umbilical rupture: the loss of a homeland.
These levels of connotation of 'home' are suggested in Barman's exhibition at Experimenter gallery which ends today. Though it's titled No... I Remember it Well, the artist's awareness of homelessness comes neither from his own nor even his parents' experience but from that of his neighbours in Bonhooghly who trickled in from Bangladesh at different points of time but are yet to be recognized as refugees.
But why only Bangladeshis? In an era of SEZs, reckless mining and 'development' projects, the displacement of rural communities is shrugged away as the price of progress. Progress that the artist may not be in tune with, young though he is. And so, the gallery's rectangular pit is turned into the site of a home torn down, leaving a residue of rough concrete and snarling iron spikes, but its pain is given an ironic ring in the title: You Can See the Sky Again. Which you can if there's no roof above your head.
The wall installation is the eponymous work, with a faux aerial view of a rugged terrain, dotted with spare little rebar frames. It resonates with the sanctity of the very soil of one's place of birth, whether it means just a village or the country of one's origin. The "desher mati" or " desh ki dharti". Because, for traditional societies, remembrance is identity and forgetting a kind of betrayal.
Indeed, memory is the leitmotif of the show. Its role in personal myths is gently underscored by the wry ellipsis in the title: the past, imbued with an emotional haze, may be more imagined than real. Thus the raw, weathered, visually dramatic structures of We Played Even at Night (picture) and the little settlement of abodes in And the Yard was Large hint at an unfathomed gap between idyll of recall and examined reality.
Acharya's lively figures, seen at Tejas gallery recently, are, however, more in the nature of exercises. While the influence of Matisse cutouts in his colourful acrylics ensures a certain panache, patchy blots of grey watercolour sometimes turn into nervy apparitions. What's now awaited is a clearer individual voice.