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Shobha Brahma
Establishing an art idiom for NE

He has been painting canvases of varied hues and sculpted forms and figures for the past 50 years establishing an independent art idiom for the North-East and carving out a niche for himself in the art circle of the country.

Shobha Brahma, who overcame many hurdles to pursue his creative quest, is an artist whose fame has reached the international art arena. Brahma’s creative journey has been long and tortuous but he has never wavered in his pursuit of creating ‘meaningful and original art’.

A painting by Brahma "I have always tried to create something new and original and my quest has been to give a new direction to Indian art," says Brahma. Brahma is perhaps the first artist from the North-East, who attempted to create ‘new art’ which is peculiar to the region with specific ‘direction and idiom’.

"I have always been fascinated by the tribal and folk arts of the region and have carried out extensive studies in this field, which are evident in my works in some form or the other," says Brahma, who belongs to the Bodo tribe. Brahma studied in detail the lives, art, cultural background, forms and colour of the North-east tribals like the Bodos, the Rabha, the Dimasas and others, and created art with a contemporary touch.

"Ancient Egyptian art, the murals of Ajanta, miniature paintings of different schools, Santiniketan and its unique ethos -- all have played a dominant role in my evolution as an artist," says Brahma, who was trained by great masters like Ramkinkar Baij and Nandalal Bose for years. He spent four years studying in Cotton College in Guwahati from 1948 during which he extensively studied the traditional sculptural forms at Madan Kamdev, Kamakhya, temple, Sukleswar temple and the various ancient sculpted forms preserved at the museum here.

After that Santiniketan beckoned the young artist, who overcame financial and logistic difficulties to cross the Brahmaputra and reach the then art capital of the country.

"Santiniketan was a refreshing experience and I was fortunate to be trained under the likes of Ramkinkar Baij and Nandalal Bose who left an indelible influence," he says. It was at Santiniketan that Brahma was inspired to study the art of Ajanta and "Indian art was imbibed in my psyche."

It was, however, on his return from Santiniketan that Brahma was faced with a ‘creative conflict’ on whether to continue with Indian mainstream tradition or produce art specific to the North-east free from influences and trappings of any particular school or style.

"I was torn between Santiniketan and North-east... the conflict between Indian mainstream tradition and the urge to create an independent idiom in art for the North-east.... Besides, there was also a conflict between life in Santiniketan and the harsh reality here," he says. Brahma struggled for two years to get rid of Santiniketan’s influence and he used various techniques and carried out experiments to achieve this. "I virtually stopped using the techniques and media used in Santiniketan and instead of using the brush, I used palette knife to get rid of the influence", says the artist, who went on to establish an independent style peculiar to the region, which many of his students have tried to emulate over the years. Women have always found a special place in Brahma’s canvas and the artist has explored their forms, physical contours and their inner strength in many nuances. "I have explored the evolution of women through ages as women and nature and the interlinking of the two have always had a special fascination for me," he says.

Brahma has always attempted to evolve and adapt contemporary trends, subjects and techniques in his works.

Courtesy: The Assam tribune

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