New Delhi: Highlighting the plight of daily wage workers during the nationwide lockdown last year, senior Indian artist and Padma Bhushan recipient Jatin Das will soon exhibit a series of ink paintings he did on the subject of mass migration the pandemic caused.
Captured in ink on paper, in his signature style, the show of paintings titled ‘Exodus 2020’ will be on view at the Art Alive Gallery in New Delhi. The show is scheduled to run from February 20-March 15.
“Like everyone else, I was stuck at home for more than six months. I barely stepped out. What I missed the most was going to my studio, where I work from morning to late evening. Instead, I spent most of my time cooking and cleaning. But I was restless at home.
I had two hundred odd acid free paper, some ink pots and lots of brushes. So I began painting. What appeared in the newspapers and television, and what I had observed over the years, all spontaneously came pouring out. And that is how the series was born, which I have named ‘Exodus 2020’,” says Das who was born in 1941 in Odisha, and has spent over 6 decades creating art.
Saying that the inspiration for his work has always come from the working class — those who make roads, lay bricks, paint high rise buildings, the beldars, thhelawallahs, kudawallahs, manhole cleaners, rag pickers, house-help, construction workers, all those who toil non-stop — Das adds: “During the lockdown the migrant workers, who build our homes and cities, had to go back to their villages. There was no work in the city, so no earnings.
Hundreds and thousands of them had to walk bare feet, some on cycles, and others atop buses, without fearing the scorching sun, without food and water. They went with their little belongings, tucked under their arms, or on their heads. Men and women carried their children on their shoulders, in baskets, in their tired arms, quietly walking, through days and nights, non-stop.”
“Normally, I paint figures, who are bare bodied, beyond any specific context of time and place. I don’t have any other elements of clothing, architecture, foliage or animals, or anything that would localise it. But this is a special series, a response to our troubled times,” says the artist, teacher and cultural expert. Das is also the Founder and Chairman of the JD Centre of Art.