Instant Expressionism: Sculptures & Rare Drawings by Prodosh Das Gupta - 3D virtual exhibition by Kumar Gallery

Instant Expressionism: Sculptures & Rare Drawings by Prodosh Das Gupta

mar, 05/03/2022 to dim, 10/30/2022

curated by:


Prodosh Das Gupta, one of the finest sculptors to emerge in 20th century India, coined the term ‘Instant Expressionism’ to embody a kind of action art that draws from the emptiness of the meditative mind and spontaneity of action to produce microcosmic works of art. With his mastery of form Das Gupta felt that rapid creation of small-format sculpture resulted in unique stresses and gestures that revealed intimate and non-conceptual energies of the human figure. Though lacking the tactile responsiveness of clay, Das Gupta eventually disclosed that many of his drawings too were rooted in Instant Expressionism, “Most of my drawings are but results of momentary outbursts, drawn swiftly without any previous plan or pre-conception…I owe my sculptures to these drawings…” This exhibition invites the viewer to explore the relationship between Prodosh Das Gupta's sculptures (10) and rare drawings (60) through the lens of his aesthetic of Instant Expression and his writings on the same.

Sculptors Instant Expressionism

Prodosh has Gupta

It is astonishing no doubt to find today that the multifaceted genius of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci was the first person to recognize hundred of years ago the germ of possibilities of action painting of abstract expressionism propounded and practiced long after in this modern age. The possibility today of discovering new images from chance happenings and accidents in this complex world of chaos and disorder and in the context of shrunken space and quickening of time becomes more cogent and valid. "Among other things" Leonardo da Vinci wrote, "I shall not scruple to discover a new method of assisting the invention, which, though trifling in appearance may yet be of considerable service in opening the mind and putting it upon the scent of new thoughts, and this is: if you look at some old wall covered with dirt, or the old appearance of some streaked stones, you may discover several things like landscapes, battles, clouds, uncommon attitude, draperies etc. Out of this confused mass of objects the mind will be furnished with abundance of designs and subjects, perfectly new"......

In my recent experiments in sculpture, through a chance happening I hit upon the idea of Instant Sculpture or Instant Expressionism. When I say Instant Sculpture I mean sculpture done instantly within a few minutes or even seconds. The art of sculpture as it is understood by the term is time consuming. One may work on a piece of sculpture for months or even years together. The process is lengthy, arduous and at times exasperating. The three dimensions and the solid nature of a piece of sculpture themselves suggest hard labour, hard thinking, advance planning and consummate skill — a process of work entailing long time. How then, one may ask, is instant sculpture possible today?

The answer will very much depend upon as to how far a sculptor can eliminate the aforesaid four important qualities that go to make a so-called sculpture. In my recent experiment in evolving a process of executing instant sculpture I made it a point to keep my mind blank and thus have the intuitive approach instead of the intellectual, by way of playing with a lump of clay without having any preconceived notion. In the process of the action — squeezing, twisting, rolling, flattening, pinching etc. suddenly a beautiful form emerges, sometimes in a very realistic fashion, sometimes in a near-abstract form giving certain clues of verisimilitude — a composition with human, animal or bird form. The interplay of gliding forms, one merging into another or one emerging from the other creates a sense of rhythm. Obviously, the soft and docile character of clay takes the form according to the handling of it either by squeezing, turning, rolling, or pinching etc. in fashioning these forms I have found that only sculptures of small dimensions can be executed — a size which can be held or manipulated by the palms and the fingers of the two hands — retaining however their monumental quality. In most of my sculptures thus executed I have found a rhythm pulsating all throughout, the spontaneous movement ofthe gliding forms creating an object often enlivened with a delicacy which can rarely be found in a sculpture executed with a pre-conceived notion. This delicacy and refinement add a charm of their own in the finality of the sculpture. in my wonderment I have found again the sharp linear contours of the sculpture piercing into space, thus giving the sculpture a definite character of its own. The subtleties, the nuances carried with the impressions of the fingers and the palms make the surface highly taut with life. The authentic expression of it is characterized again by the intimate feeling of the sculptor's impressions imprinted on the surface. His personality and character are identified with the pressure, turns, twists etc.

I would however like to put stress on the four elements of directness, spontaneity, vitality and a microcosmic feeling which to my mind give a piece of sculpture its all important life force and meaning. By directness I mean when a piece of sculpture is executed without any preconceived notion directly by the sculptor's hands without the aid of any tools or instruments. The sacred and tender relationship between the sculptor and his material, that is clay, go a long way to create a direct understanding in all its feelings and emotional contents. This tactile feeling which help create the understanding between the sculptor and the material (clay) would never have been possible through the manipulations by tools and instruments. I know an Indonesian painter, Affandi who in his most impatient moments of creative urge to paint would take his paints in his palms and fingers and apply them directly on the canvas. It is no wonder then that Van Gogh once in a most excited and helpless moment cried out, "I wish I could paint with my heart". All these go to establish the only truth that creative urge in an artist to express itself would try to express as directly as humanly possible. This feeling of directness is a biological urge which emanates from a sense of hunger of possessing or being possessed. This urge is essential for creation. This urge again in its fullest demand is impatient, irresistible, restive and it moves in a quick tempo to create.

In conclusion, I would like to mention the advantage that a sculptor can have over a painter in practising automatism. Unlike a painter practising through this process of automatism, a sculptor enjoys a better position of achieving the desired authenticity of automatic execution in view of his direct approach and contact with his material, the feel of the clay. The immediacy, the intensity and spontaneity which are directly involved in creating the impact by the sculptor's intensive and possessive urge (symbolized by his hands) will go a long way to create something basically fundamental. The play of instinct in this case is more pronounced when intellect is in a low key; rather it takes the role of only a helper to bring out the strong points of the basic character of sculpture. My process of Instant Sculpture is never a building process. The unconscious action and its impact is total and instant. The conscious part is meant only for editing and bringing to light that was hidden beneath the surface.

On the basis of this thesis I have tried to express myself in terms of Instant Expressionism. My material being clay I have no doubt of having the fullest understanding and co-operation in my venture with my medium.

(Text from the catalogue of One-man show, Dec 1979,Taj Art Gallery, Bombay)

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