Odisha Artist Pratul Dash’s ‘Bend In A River’: Shaping A World Of Death And Devastation

Immediately after watching Pratul Dash’s new solo paintings exhibition titled “Bend in the River” in Bikaner House, New Delhi, my instant reaction was poetic. The dark and devastating images of a river bed evoke something inside my mind and I know not what it was exactly. Was it a sense of fear or a flash of awakening? Was it a discovery of our time or a whiteboard where all our memories become void? With his skillful strokes, Pratul creates a world of skulls, bones, nakedness, and greed. It was the aura of darkness. So my immediate was as follows-

Amidst millions of skulls

I am walking with a river of skulls.

I am living in the land of skulls.

I am looking for my own skull.

Amidst millions which one is mine?

In the river of death which death I do live?

Am I that man who is playing with the fire?

Am I the dog who is looking for a piece of dead bone?

Am I the crane who is looking for a drop of water in the river of blood?

Who am I in the bend of a river?

After watching Pratul Dash’s solo show of paintings in Bikaner House, New Delhi I am going through hundreds of questions. His images are haunting me day in and out.

It’s evoking.

It’s hard-hitting.

It won’t allow you to sleep for quite a long.

The images are infused in your blood as after images and it flows in your vein as blood.

Explicitly Political

Putting the poetic feelings aside, one can also approach Pratul’s new body of works with a vital question. Is memory personal or political? When he is talking about the bend in a river, does he intend to sail through the river as a lonely man or is he living a life lived by billions? Pratul’s images are in a group, in the crowd, and in chaos. It’s not about the lonely man but all about encountering a powerful stream of collective danger. One can very much identify the Ganges during the COVID pandemic; so full of skulls and skeletons. It can also remind you of the story of a naked king standing on the mountain of skulls and bargaining with the power.

Shaping a world of death and devastation is the prime spirit behind this new series of artworks. On a huge 84”x 288’’ size canvas, Pratul sets an extraordinary discourse on climate change and its impact on the planet. Stylistically it looks abstract but the miniatures spread like a Vishwaroopa. There are hundreds of stories portrayed on one canvas.



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