Essays on Ramkinkar Baij

I first met Kinkarda during the Puja holidays of 1937 at "Jogin's" tea shop - later immortalised through drawings & paintings by artists in Santiniketan.

I was a student of the Calcutta Government Art School then, and during a short stay at Santiniketan had gone to 'Jogin's' in search of a cup of tea after spending a quiet morning on a couple of oil Sketches of the now receding 'Khoai'.

Kinkarda invited me to show him my sketches - gave very constructive criticism - casually found out I had no regular eating place and then immediately impressed on me that there is no other place like Jogin's for one's lunch and dinner as well. And Jogin's became my regular pilgrimage for the next three weeks where I had repasts of rice, dal and "Shajne in posto" every day in the illustrious company of Kinkarda and Binodeda.

It is impossible for me to describe my first impressions of viewing the paintings and sculptures of Kinkarda. As a 18 year old boy I had seen some reproductions of modern western art. I had seen the art of the then India through two annual Exhibitions of paintings & sculptures at the Indian Museum.

I found his works to be completely different. His paintings very vigorous in bold colours & lines and his sculptures also his interpretation of life around him, created as if in a burst of energy to express something that he felt on the spar of the moment impressed me profoundly, and then the severe beauty of Benodeda's work seen towards the end of my holiday sijourn to Santiniketan, helped me immediately to take the decision of going to Santiniketan, Kala Bhawan for my study.

During the period when I was a student at Santiniketan, Kinkarda created most of his massive sculptures in concrete and also that was the period when he started and developed his paintings in oil and created some of his most beautiful works. But his energy and vitality was not at all diminished by his serious creative efforts in the fields of plastic Arts.

The Kala Bhawan campus was pulsating from morning till evening with his songs and laughter both in very loud voice. The students would also join him vigorously and it was not at all a rare occasion when in the middle of the classes suddenly the whole Kala Bhawan found itself taking part in a musical extravaganza under the leadership of Kinkarda - with sometimes even "Master Mahasay" Nandalal Bose taking up a musical instrument to play with a smiling face. Going out sketching with Kinkarda was another experience that was most welcome to his students because apart from studying his way of hearing at the world - generally each of them was rewarded by a wonderful sketch by him.

Some of the most enjoyable time that we had those days was in the evenings after dinner at the Kala Bhawan Kitchen when Kinkarda taught us his interpretations of Tagores’ songs & dances.

Kinkarda's other passion which exists till today is production of interesting dramas -making experiments with acting, stage decor and music. Students from all the Bhawans begged him to guide their dramas. His unbounded energy stood him in a good stead and he enjoyed the gruelling rehearsals almost round the year.

Kinkarda loves the strong summers of Santiniketan and he programmed all his larger works to be done in the summer vacations. A few of us who stayed on to help him were rewarded by the elevating society of the three great artists living at Santiniketan at that time - Nandalal, Benodebehari and Ram Kinkar who were inseparable having great respect and understanding for each other, consulting and discussing mutual problems and even when they just sat quietly together on the veranda of Kinkarda's hut, they seemed to us, to be in perfect communication.

Courtesy: Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi
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