Kalam Patua is the best-known contemporary exponent of the Kalighat style of painting. After being featured in a major retrospective of Kalighat paintings at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, Kalam’s second exhibition at Gallery Espace inaugurates a new series of paintings, based on social observation, autobiography and a satirical take on contemporary themes and reimagined traditional ideas in fresh new contexts. For a fortnight (January 24 to February 7, 2013) Kalam will install an “Open Studio” at Gallery Espace and invite the public to view his process, including the traditional techniques of his creative community, and his own distinctive style in Kalighat painting over the past two decades characterized by the use of pastel colours and fluid watercolour washes.
Kalam Patua (b.1962, village Jhilli, Murshidabad district, West Bengal) belongs to the patua community of traditional painters and storytellers. He learned the art of painting storyteller’s scrolls from his uncle Baidyanath Patua. He started by painting puja images of goddesses as well as narrative scrolls depicting Krishnalila, Ramayana, and Chaitanya, among other themes. In 1990, he was commissioned to paint a scroll illustrating the story of French Revolution by the Alliance Francaise in Calutta. Around this time he experimented with subjects like communal violence and dowry deaths.
The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, which holds the single largest collection of Kalighat paintings, has acquired and showcased Kalam's work in its just-concluded touring exhibition across South Asia. His works are also in the collections of The National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, the National Museum inLiverpool, UK, the Museum of Civilization in Canada, the Chicago Children's Museum, and the Lekha and Anupam Poddar Collection. Kalam Patua works as a postmaster in Chandpara sub-post office in West Bengal.