Curatorial Note


The Curatorial Note

For fifteen months now, India is living a dark night. Dawn never breaks … the night only gets darker. In the summer of 2020, the country witnessed the exodus of millions who form the backbone of the nation’s economy, making journeys of the scale that India had not seen since her borders were drawn. Journeys to find shelter and escape starvation, away from the big cities that shunned so many overnight.

Even as the first rays of the sun shone dimly through the dark, a black night descended. While some made hay, a dreaded, unbridled beast unleashed its fury on an unsuspecting people. With unspeakable stealth, the beast gained ground, now striking young and old alike. Today, it’s victims gasp for breath, thirsting for the very air that every living creature on this planet is entitled to breathe.

And when they gasp no more, their pyres burn on sidewalks, in parking lots, and in crematoriums
where flames have not died down in weeks. Even in death, there is no dignity. And there are those that provide succour to the suffering … medical facilities, of course, but also places of worship, citadels of education, civic buildings, and citizens. All struggling to rise to the occasion and help India heal.

Today, I send out a call to students, fellow educators, my printmaker friends, and artists of every
description to rise and raise your voices. Let us harken back today to the original role of Printmaking, the most democratic of all art-making processes. Since the 18th century, European artists such as William Hogarth, Francisco Goya, Honore Daumier, William Blake, and later the German Expressionists invoked the medium of printmaking to register human anguish. But I will cite closer to home the inimitable artist quartet Zainul Abedin, Qamrul Hasan, Chittaprosad Bhattacharya and Somnath Hore as our points of reference. As you may know, this quartet, realising the potential of printmaking as a medium for the masses, fiercely used the burin and the bully to depict the wounds of Hungry Bengal and arouse the patriotic fervour of an enslaved people. Agitating against the British scorched earth’ policy implemented in the Chittagong countryside during the Second World War, these artists moved from village to village as volunteer workers, sharing the suffering and poverty of famine-stricken Bengal. Led by Chittaprosad, printmaking assumed a new role as an instrument of protest.

It would not be incorrect to say that the anguish that India is suffering today has not been seen since the Bengal Famine of 1943 or the Partition of 1947. As creators, let us come together to hear this anguish and register it for posterity, lest history forgets. Let us return printmaking to its original
democratic role.

Dr. Paula Sengupta
Artist, Academic, Curator



Dr. Paula Sengupta is an artist, academic, curator, and art writer. She is Professor at the Department of Graphics-Printmaking at the Faculty of Visual Arts, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, Member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong, and Secretary of the artist’s initiative, Khoj Kolkata. She is author of The Printed Picture: Four Centuries of Indian Printmaking published by the Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi in 2012 and Foreign & Indigenous Influences in Indian Printmaking published by LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, Saarbrucken, Germany in 2013.

Trained as a printmaker, Paula’s repertoire as an artist includes broadsheets, artist’s books, objects, installation, and community art projects. She works across mediums that include printmaking, textiles and embroidery, papermaking, and much else. She is widely exhibited in India and abroad.

Her curatorial projects include the landmark exhibition Trajectories: 19th-21st Century Printmaking from India and Pakistan for the Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah, UAE in 2014; six editions of The Printed Picture: Four Centuries of Indian Printmaking for DAG MODERN, India  from 2012-18; Popular Prints and the Freedom Struggle at the Drishyakala Museum, Red Fort, Delhi in 2019; and Ghare Baire – The Home, the World, and Beyond at Old Currency Building, Kolkata.



Nilanjan Das completed his graduation and master’s in printmaking from Rabindra Bharati University. He presently enrolled as a Ph.D. scholar under Dr. Paula Sengupta at the same University. He also works as an artist and trustee for Hamdasti, a Kolkata-based community art collective.

Nilanjan Das is a printmaker and installation artist based in Kolkata. He is interested in the role of printmaking in the public domain and initiated several public art projects. His art practice involves the idea of gender interaction and intimacy in the public space.

He participated in many art residencies and exhibitions across India and abroad. Some of his major achievements are New Prints 2020 at International Print Center New York, awarded with the Sponsered coursework program,  Khoj grants for community-based art practice, 2019, Manaroma Printmaker Award by India Printmaker House, Megalo Artist in Residency Award, Canberra, Australia, 2018.