18 September - 27 October, 2018
Poushali Das uses the Japanese technique of wash and tempera on silk and wasli paper to create soft, effusive landscapes that take us to the mountains, high up in tufted clouds; to red deserts of blushing, luminescent s c and; and to tussocked waters, where slim boats are often caught in the throes of a storm. A full moon frequently hangs over the scene—quartz-like and crystalline.
Das’s technique is borne from the one handed down by Japanese artists to those in Santiniketan in the early 1900s. Large flat brushes are teased in water over a polished surface, resulting in colours that are balmy and velvet-smooth. Das sources her silk from Assam and West Bengal, and she is particular in her use of Muga Silk, which is naturally glossy, and speckled with tints of gold.
“Asia is one”, begins Japanese scholar Okakura Kakuzō’s 1903 book on the Arts of Japan, “not even the snowy barriers [of the Himalayas] can interrupt for one moment that broad expanse of love for the Ultimate and Universal.” Okakura is a continuing influence in Das’s work, and she is preoccupied with the Indian relationship to Japan, which is an ancient one, particularly on the terrains of mysticism and spiritualism. On Das’s canvas, topographies melt into one another, as do notions of time and space. The scenes are continuous: both unfolding the past, as well as charging to the future. The work is marked with this spirituality, and her technique and use of medium maintains a Modernist painterly relationship with Japan, which began with Okakura’s disciples arriving in Santiniketan and exchanging techniques.
“Within beauty there is a lot of pain,” Das declares. She was a student at Santiniketan, and her use of the tempera and wash continues the traditions of the Bengal School. To the Bombay Modernists, the Bengal School was effeminate and figurative, but Das appropriates the technique into one of strength and a wizened resilience. Das’s canvases glimmer with an air of calm, and their slight figures and symbols gently leap and dance to effortlessly illustrate her chosen narratives.