Rajesh Deb’s spirited and agile interlocution of a lost world of nineteenth century Calcutta is ageless, tells us engraved stories of a cultural space as we read them again and again: bristling with drama, thick with dialogue, vividly rendered and studded with astringent apercus and submerges them to the present tropes of our times. He believes that it is to the artist’s credit that, while eschewing the rigid limitations imposed by ideological tenets, one should nevertheless retain an honest and concerned humanity.
Deb’s body of work bears the testimony that how an eclectic range of imagery with almanacs produced in the nineteenth century especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century changing world of colonial India became instrumental in evolving a visual language of collage and citation and acted as a vehicle of cultural force, creating interstices between the sacred, the erotic, the political and colonial modern.
The painted spaces are zany and visionary as if the artist was suddenly possessed with ideas and just had to get them drawn. The painter loves tangents, starkness incompletion and reversal that intrigue. He takes us on an amazing journey that is lucid if not brilliant keeping in mind that the key to any successful conceptually based art is to be able to ingrain thought in material and these works in this exhibition are towards that.
His application of the paint across the surface that reinforces, or counterpoints, the rhythms set up by the distribution of figures and the grouping dark and light masses. The theatrical, dramatic use of the light in these works emphasizes a narrative, and the abstract chiaroscuro of luminosity and darkness modeling from across the canvas, but there is also a use of light-accents to pick out sequences of movements as in Five Intimate Friends or Feng Shui Tree or Gota –Kata.
We sense that, even after prolonged viewing, we’ll never learn more about those immortal stories that appear in these compositions. As with Barthesian pleasures of the text, our hungry eyes get a tangible pleasure, and the narrative is almost beside the point.