By Vincent Van Ross

Dipto Narayan Chattopadhyay is a born artist.  When I say that, I do not mean that he entered this world with a drawing pencil in one hand and a paint brush in the other.  At two, when he had barely started talking and was tottering around on his tender feet, he was already embellishing the walls of his house with drawings and paintings using his father’s boot polish and mother’s lipsticks! His parents saw in him a streak of artistic talent.  Neither of them discouraged him though he made a mess of the walls at times.  Although his mother was never into arts, becoming an artist was probably a wish that remained unfulfilled in her.  So, she encouraged and supported Dipto with all her heart when he went about merrily creating art on the walls!

By the time he was six, Dipto was well on way to becoming an artist.  He participated in his first exhibition at the prime age of six at Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata.

For an artist who is in his late thirties, Dipto Narayan Chattopadhyay displays experience of artists twice that age.  Think of a travel writer who travelled to 30 destinations till the age of 60.  He can talk of and write about only 30 destinations at the age of 60.  And, now, think of a 30-year-old travel writer who has travelled to 60 destinations by that age.  This travel writer can not only talk of 60 destinations at the age of 30 but his rich travel experience will stand him good stead when he talks of any destination.  He is likely to be more informed, more analytical and more equipped to talk about that destination than a travel writer who has travelled to 30 destinations till the age of 60. That is the kind of difference that experience can make to one’s output.

That is Dipto for you.  Like a vocalist who fine-tunes his voice with constant and consistent Riaz (practice), Dipto has honed his skills as an artist by working overtime, putting in those extra hours and extra work all these years.  That shows and his maturity as an artist comes through in his works in the form of evolved and awe inspiring pieces of art.

When I was introduced to Dipto, he looked like a teenager with a childish innocence writ large on his face.  To tell you the truth, I did not take him seriously.  I thought of him as a budding artist.  I thought those must have been his formative years.  But, just one look at his art works changed my perception.  His works were highly evolved.  Maturity peeped out of each and every stroke of his brush; the splashes of colours endorsed his understanding of the role colours played in creating the feel and capturing the mood of the subject; forms revealed his focused and in-depth study of the subject to get at the crux of the subject and his executional skills to capture the spirit of the subject; compositions gathered the different aspects of the subject and deftly packed them into the frame so that the attention of the viewer does not slip out of the frame.  We all know that it is important not only to catch the attention but also to hold it.   That is what his works do.  His artistic works were executed with an incredible sense of beauty and aesthetics which instantly transformed his works into pieces of appealing art. His works exuded a sense of completeness and fulfilment.

To be fair to Dipto, I found his works stunning.  I started admiring the immense creative and artistic talents waiting to burst out of the frail frame of this young artist.  Dipto is like the 30 year old travel writer who went globe-trotting to over 60 destinations across the globe by that age.  The rich experience he gained over the years is bound to manifest itself in the works that follow.

He is perfectly at home in realistic works where he exhibits exceptional skills of a perfectionist verging on photo-realism.  And, when he turns to fantasy or abstract themes, he lets his imagination run wild and pushes surrealism to a new level.

BIRTH, LOCATION AND FAMILY

Dipto was born to Satya and  Anjali  Chatterjee on June 9, 1973 at Bankura about 300 km from Calcutta.  Within a few years, they moved to Calcutta.  That was when his father was transferred to Calcutta in 1977.  Being a police officer, his father was allotted a government accommodation.  This augured well for them as they had an ancestral home in Calcutta.  After spending 22 years in Calcutta, Dipto finally shifted to Delhi in November 1999 as Calcutta did not seem to hold out enough promise of prospects for an artist like Dipto.

Dipto is the youngest of four children. His eldest sister Kakoli Mazumdar is an amateur vocalist. The next one in line is Kuheli Banerjee.  She is a professional vocalist.  She has recorded her songs on CDs. His elder brother Jayanto Narayan Chatterjee is the third in line.  He is a practicing advocate.  Fortunately, all of them supported his artistic quest though Dipto is the only visual artist in the family. His parents, brother and sisters are settled in Calcutta.

Dipto is married to Rashmi, an archaeologist and a heritage management professional.  They have two school going children in their sons Adish and Avnish. Currently, they are located at Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh bordering Delhi and forming part of the National Capital Region.

EDUCATION

The entire schooling of Dipto—primary, middle and higher secondary—was from Gandhi Colony Madyamic Vidhyalaya in Calcutta.  During his school days he exhibited exemplary talent in art and was associated with decoration of the school whenever there was an occasion to celebrate. His teachers and his peers put his artistic talents to full use.

BRUSH WITH ART

Dipto started making mud sculptures at the age of four.  By six, he was making paper sculptures from waste paper, origami, paper craft, jute craft etc.  In the years that followed, he started making sculptures using stick, wood etc. and also burned ball-point pen refills to create sculptures.

Dipto’s mother encouraged his interest in art by taking him to museums and exhibitions at galleries such as the Academy of Fine and Birla Academy of Art and Culture.  Dipto’s art teacher at school, Ashok Ganguly doubled up as his friend and big brother (Dada) and took him out for outdoor study, museum study and on-the-spot landscape paintings when he was studying in Class VI and was just 11 years old.  Dipto invariably picked up the first prize in every art competition he participated in his school or elsewhere.

He used to visit the exhibitions of works displayed by Henry Moore, Jamini Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, Gaganendra Nath Tagore, Abindnedra Nath Tagore, Ram Kinkar Baij, Vinodh Behari, Nand Lal Bose, Kitendra Nath Mazumdar, Devi Prasad Roy Chaudhuri, Horen Das, Atul Bosh, Hemendra nath Mazumdar, Chintamani Kar,  Bikash Bhattacharya and other acclaimed artists to familiarise himself with their techniques and their vision.

ART EDUCATION

Dipto began his formal art eduction with a three Diploma in fine arts from Visual Arts Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta (1994).  He opted for Oriental art (India art) and came out with a first class first. He learnt watercolour (wash technique), tempera, guache paiting and frescoes during his diploma course .  The themes he worked on varied from fantasy (depicting winged horse); self-portrait with a brush in hand; angels with wings;  Apu and durga brother and sister etc.

After the diploma course, Dipto went in for a five year Degree in Fine Arts (Painting) at Rabindra Bharti University, Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1998. This is where he picked up his skills in painting oil on canvas; acrylic on canvas, making sculpture and graphic art.  During the first three years he learnt and followed the Indian school—primarily the Bengal school working on themes like still life, figurative studies, daily life etc. The distinguishing features of these were elongated faces, stylised hands etc.

Thereafter, Dipto set off on his own course developing his own idioms using lanterns, hands, horses, vintage cars, buildings etc. in an effort to create a style and signature of his own. Course content and teaching at Rabindra Bharti were similar to what was being taught at Shanti Niketan at that time.  He put in anything between 13 and 16 hours a day on drawing and painting during this time which is why he is today such a refined artist. Dipto also learnt how to make sculptures and continued to make them till he shifted to Delhi.

In 2009, Dipto pursued the Masters’ course in the ‘History of Art Drawing and Painting’ at the Madhav College of Gwalior University.  Though it is a two-year-course, it usually takes more than two years to complete it. Dipto completed the course in 2011.  Dipto’s works reflect his thorough knowledge of the history and evolution of Indian art as also his in-depth knowledge of the various aspects of art.

ARDENT LEARNER

Dipto is a great learner.  He gained immensely from his interactions with his teachers and other masters of his time.  They include Prabhat Gangluly, Ashok Roy, Sondeep Chakraborthy, Sudip Roy, Shanu Lahiri, Dharmonarayan Dasgupta, Shovan Shom, Partho Pratim Deb, Bikash Bhattacharya, Suhas Roy, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Ramanand Bhandopadhyay, Shuva Prasanna Bhattacharya, Ganesh Payne, Ganesh Haloi, Badhan Das, Manik Talukdar etc.

MAIDEN SALES

Every artist remembers the first major sales of his works because that is what gives him the confidence and courage to pursue the career of an artist.  Otherwise, the field of art is wrought with fluctuating fortunes.

Dipto ran into Kataun Sakalat quite by chance who later became his guide and sowed the seeds of confidence in him. She owns the Kataun Art Gallery in Calcutta and is an artist in her own right.  When Dipto met her for the first time, he had an unframed painting rolled and tucked under his arm. Kataun got curious.  When Dipto told her that it was one of his paintings, she asked him if she could have a look at it.  Even as she was appreciating the painting outside her gallery, a client came by and insisted that she wanted to buy it.  The painting depicted a marble palace, the stable of mounted police force and captured the movements of a horse which was swinging its head.  The power of this sudden movement of the horse seemed to throw the grills, windows, doors etc. out in all directions. The painting fetched him rupees three thousand in 1993.  Kataun did not take her commission.  She said she could not accept any commission because the painting was sold outside her gallery though they were standing just outside the gallery when the transaction took place.

The second painting that got sold featured a vintage car splitting from the middle.  Dipto was just unwrapping the painting when a client happened to visit Kataun in her gallery. The moment she saw Dipto’s painting, she broke down and started sobbing.  She insisted that she wanted to buy it then and there no matter what the price was.  Dipto quoted Rs.7,500 which she gladly paid and took possession of the painting.  These were very encouraging signs even before the beginning of his career as an artist.

SOCIAL ACTIVIST

Rama Krishna Mission took a noble initiative to open a school in Rambaghan for the unprivileged children of sex workers who earned their bread from the largest red light district of Asia—Sonagachi.  The school sought to provide training in handicrafts to these unprivileged children of sex workers so that they could earn their living from other sources.

Jaya Chalia and Kasturi Mukherjee, Chairperson and Secretary of All Bengal Women’s Union approached several artists and tried to persuade them to teach these children.  All of them declined because they did not want to be associated people and places of disrepute.  Finally, when they approached Dipto, he not only agreed but actually trained them in papier machie craft and also taught them how to make utilitarian items such as lamps, pots, ash trays etc. from paper pulp and recycled paper.

For seven years (1993-99), Dipto was associated with the Save Child Fund (SCF) project of the Rama Krishna Mission, Calcutta teaching art and craft to these unprivileged children and teaching them how to sell their works.

An NGO named ‘Silence’ run by Chanchal Chatterjee and Dhiranando used to export perfumed candles to Japan.  Environment conscious Japanese cancelled the export order when they found that candles were arriving in plastic crates.  Dipto taught these children how to make crates out of recycled paper.  The Japanese not only lapped it up but also happily restored the cancelled order.

COMMITTED ARTIST

Drawing is the starting point and the backbone of all forms of art—be it pen and ink, graphics, painting or sculpture.  Dipto not only mastered the art of drawing but also experimented with all other mediums of visual art.  That is why he is a composite and complete artist.

DRAWING

Undoubtedly, drawing sets the tone for all other forms of visual art except photography.  Drawing can be taken as a medium unto itself or it could be used as foundation or blueprint for painting, graphics and sculpture.  Dipto realised this at an early age and he went about mastering the nuances of drawing.  He has achieved such mastery and perfection in drawing that scale, perspective, angle etc. pose no problem to him.  He is not only able to handle these with ease but is also able to give a long leash to his imagination to create great flow in the movement of his drawing pencils and pens.  He has mastered the rules of perspective and angle so well that he breaks these rules with flourish to create really outstanding and masterly pieces of distorted art.

Pen and Ink Drawings

From the beginning of his career to this date, Dipto has been making pencil sketches and pen and ink drawings.  He has made them in thousands and continues to do them.  Some of his best pen and ink drawings have been displayed and put up for sale at various exhibitions.

PAINTING,  SCULPTURE,  MIXED MEDIA AND GRAPHICS

Out of all the mediums of visual arts, it is painting that is pursued by most artists with gusto.  Compared to sculpture and graphics, painting lends itself to a wider spectrum of possibilities.  Once an artist decides to go in for painting, he goes about selecting the surface and the medium to give expression to his artistic ideas. Painting offers unlimited possibilities to the artist.

Mixed Media

For a long time, Dipto has been obsessed with mixed media on different surfaces.  He is equally at home working on paper, canvas and board. Dipto’s mixed media creations are different in the sense that they are not pieces of two-dimensional art.  He adds the third dimension of  ‘height’ to the two dimensions of’length’ and ‘breadth’ by creating a relief on the surface similar to that of murals.

Dipto puts these surfaces to good effect building the third dimension like brick work. This he does by cutting and pasting card or board one upon the other until the required height, form and projection are achieved on the top layer.  This multi-layered cut-and-paste technique creates an unbelievable effect on the surface as the relief so created lends it a three-dimensional effect. Once the image is built in relief, the ground coating is done with an airbrush which works with the help of a compressor. Thereafter, the details and outlines are created with the paintbrush.  The greatest chunk of the body of his work comes from this genre.  For all intents and purposes mixed media works represent his main line of art which lends him his signature and identity as an artist.

Dipto has created thousands of mixed media works.  At most of his exhibitions, mixed media works dominate the show or find themselves alongside drawings and paintings.

Acrylics

When it comes to painting, Dipto is pre-occupied with Acrylics on Canvas creating images that verge on photo-realism and watercolour textures. This is by far the favourite medium of painting for Dipto.

Many artists are turning to Acrylics because of the ease with which it can be mixed with water and used.  Also, it takes much shorter time to dry up than oil on canvas.  Another plus point is that the finish of Acrylic colours is more vibrant.  Since, the days of subdued hues and suffused colours are on their way out, many artists now prefer acrylics over oil colours while working on canvas.  Acrylics dry up faster in comparison to oil on canvas as linseed oil which is used as an additive for oil colours takes much longer to dry up.

Dipto has created over a thousand acrylic paintings on different surfaces such as canvas, paper, board, mount board etc.

Crayon and Pastel colours

Dipto leaves no medium untouched.  He has experimented with crayons and pastel colours since the early days of art eduction.  He has produced thousands of pieces of art using these colours though it is not his favourite medium for exhibitions.

Pure Watercolours

It is not that Dipto did not want to work on plain watercolours.  It is not that he did not want to experiment with the possibilities offered by the transparent quality of watercolours.  He did. Again, he has painted thousands of works using watercolours. This is by far the most difficult medium in painting because you have to start with lighter shades and work towards darker shades as you complete your painting.  Unlike oil on canvas, it is not possible to apply or superimpose a lighter shade over a darker shade of colour when you work with watercolours.  Besides, the only way to create white colour in watercolours is to leave the portion of the paper untouched by colour. White pigment in watercolours is used only to create lighter shades of other colours.  White pigment in watercolours cannot be used to create a white surface on any part of the paper.

Dipto created numerous watercolour paintings if only to experiment with this difficult medium.  But he never displayed them at exhibitions for obvious reasons. Calcutta, where he created these watercolour paintings, was swarming with talented watercolour artists.  It would have been a Herculean task to create an identity in watercolour painting. The chances were one in a million.  Dipto knew that he would be lost in the crowd if he opted for watercolours to establish himself as an artist.  He knew that it would be impossible for him to make a name for himself if he stuck to watercolours.  So, he turned to other mediums.  He turned to other mediums because he wanted his works to stand out and be noticed.  He wanted to create a niche for himself in the art world.  Dipto created watercolour paintings until 1998 using pure watercolours.

Dipto settled for modified versions of watercolours when he chose to paint for exhibitions. The two kinds of watercolours that Dipto used for creating works to be displayed at exhibitions were Gouache on paper and Tempera on paper.

Gouache

For Gouache colour pigments are ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance lending it an opaque touch. Unlike pure watercolours, the layers of Gouache are not transparent and are often used to accentuate form. It is more commonly known as poster colours. Dipto has created a couple of hundreds of Gouache paintings.

Tempera

Tempera  is another form of watercolour where the colour pigments are mixed with egg white or some other emulsion such as varnish or resins.  It is often mixed with soda, salt, soap, bleach, alcohol or cleansing material to counter the decaying effect and smell of egg white as it is of organic matter.  Colour-wise, tempera can used to create transparent or translucent effects. Dipto has created a couple of hundreds of Tempera so far.

Oil on Canvas

He also experimented with oil on canvas. He created many oil paintings and displayed them at exhibitions.  Some of his larger works depicting Gandhiji, Rabindra Nath Tagore  etc. are painting with oil on canvas.  Over a thousand works of this genre have been created by Dipto so far.

Sculpture

Dipto started with mud sculptures at the age of four and worked on them regularly.  It is a different matter that he did not take to sculpture in a big way.  But, he did not spare or spurn sculpture as a medium of art either.  He created several sculptures using fibreglass, terracotta, wood, paper etc.  Papier machie was another favourite medium he dabbled in. The one medium that got left out was metal. He could not work on metals because of two reasons.  One—it was heavy and expensive to work with.  And, two—he could never acquire any facility to handle metals for sculpture. Dipto has created about 50 papier machie sculptures so far.

Graphics

Dipto was equally at home with graphics.  Whether it is linocut, woodcut or etching, he tried his hands on all of them. He worked on graphics for twoyears created about 50 works of graphics during his college life.

THEMES

Most of Dipto’s works relate to three themes—realistic, surrealistic and abstract.

Realism

The themes that appeal to Dipto for realistic works are landscapes, still life, figurative, daily life and mythological in nature.   His realistic works verge on photo-realism.  Dipto is blessed with an eye for details. He pays so much of attention to intricate details in terms of form, colour and composition that the viewer is often led to believe that he is viewing the subject on the spot.

Surrealism

Surrealism is the mainstay of Dipto’s artist works.  Dipto’s works take flights of fantasy and land with incredible images.  Dipto plays with form, angle and perspective with such imagination and authority that only evolved artists can afford to tread on this territory.  At the end of the day, his creations are fantastic and mind-boggling.

 

Abstract

Dipto’s Abstract paintings are thankfully untitled.  Strictly speaking, abstract art is non-representational in nature. Besides, assigning a title to a piece of abstract art tends to restrict interpretation of that piece.  Most of his abstracts are inspired by architectural forms.

STUDIO

Every artist needs a studio to work in a focused mannerDue to paucity of funds and time, it always suited Dipto to work out of home.  So, his home—wherever he stayed—doubled up as his studio.  Beginning with Tollyganj in Calcutta; Lado Sarai, Jangpura and Lajpat Nagar in Delhi; and, more recently, Vaishali and Vasundhara in Uttar Pradesh.

CAREER

Dipto has a wide and varied experience in his career as an artist. Very few artists would have had such a chequered career within the field of art.

Illustrator

Soon after he completed his graduation in fine arts, Dipto started hunting for freelance artistic opportunities as illustrator.  In his quest for honing his skills in illustration, he worked with some of the most reputed publishing houses such as Orient Longman 1996, Vostak and Pratham Books in his early career.  He returned to illustration after a long gap when he was called in to illustrate the translated version of ‘Ignited Minds’ authored by His Excellency, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam (former President of India) in 2008.

DESIGNER

Dipto had a brief tenure from November 1999 to March 2000 as the Chief Designer with a handicraft project called ‘Bio-flora’ engaged in producing bio-degradable, eco-friendly handicrafts.

CURATOR

Dipto has curated over 50 shows for eminent artists and new talents all over India.  He served as the Art Curator for Habiart Foundation, India Habitat Center, New Delhi from the year January 2000 to July 2002. During this period, he distinguished himself as a curator by curating the first ever exhibition of paintings by Tihar Jail inmates in November 2001.

GALLERY OWNER

Dipto had a brief stint as a gallery owner when he opened an art gallery called Gallary Vintage in the heart of Hauz Khas Village which was fast becoming a hub for cultural activities in Delhi. Gallery Vintage hosted some half-a-dozen shows between October 2002 and April 2003. Initially, he enjoyed sitting on the other side of the table with artists but soon he reaslised that it was not his cup of tea and he closed shop.

ART PROMOTER

Between 2007 and 2009, Dipto worked as Director,  Promotion of Indian Art Division with Tulika Advertising and Marketing ( Pvt) Ltd., Masjid Moth/South Extension, New Delhi.

ART CRITIC

Even as a student, Ditpo started writing on art for daily newspapers such as Pratidin, Shonal Bangla.  His writings for these newspapers appeared in the form of art reporting and appraisal of art exhibitions from 1994 to 1998.

Dipto was forthright in his commentary and was awarded the West Bengal State Academy Scholarship in 1998-99 for Art Criticism.

CULTURAL  AMBASSADOR

Dipto’s paintings were presented to all the European Union ambassadors to India for their respective Embassies and to the Ambassador of the European Union as a goodwill gesture.  Dipto has done more than most other artists to build a cultural bridge between India and Roman.  In recognition of this unique feat, ‘The Best Promoter of Indo-Romanian Relations in the Field of Art’ was presented to Dipto by the Embassy of Romania celebrating 60 years of Diplomatic Relations between Roamania and India at New Delhi in December 2008.

SOCIAL LIFE

Dipto is a life member of the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata. But, apart from that, he maintains excellent rapport with the artist community.

AWARDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

In 1995, while Dipto was still a student of art, he picked up the first prize of the prestigious Emerald Isle Annual Challenge Trophy.  The year 1996 brought an award from the Indian Society of Oriental Art.  He bagged a Certificate of Merit of the Emerald Isle Challenge Trophy in 1996.

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