“LOVE & COURAGE”
Genesis and meaning
of my signature since 1991
23 April 2020
Love: With love you can destroy jealousy, anger, hate and cruelty, and see the world in a fresh, positive and philosophical way.
Courage: With courage you can step forward with focused hard work to overcome any obstacle in life, and aspire to make the sky the limit.
SURVIVAL STRUGGLE 1954 -1968:
Born 1954, I lived under a thatched roof, bamboo walls and mud-floor temporary shelter without electricity or potable water in a slum-like refugee camp 50 km from Kolkata. This is where my art started since I was five years old. I was influenced by East Bengal (later East Pakistan then Bangladesh) artisans who had also taken refuge here after India’s partition in 1947.
ODD JOBS TO LEARN ART 1969 - 1973:
By the time I was 14, my eyesight was getting affected from working under kerosene lanterns. Alarmed, my school teacher mother took an additional school job so she could afford to shift me to a nearby small town to get the benefit of electric lights at home.
With her help, and by doing varied odd jobs in Kolkata to support my education, I made my academic artistic debut in Calcutta Government College of Art 1969-1973.
SWEEPER IN PARIS TO BE AN ARTIST 1973 - 1976:
Since I was 12, I used to escape my boring refugee camp school to go to Chandernagore, the erstwhile French territory across the Ganges river.
The visible French architectural remnants in the town of Chandernagore captivated me.
My father was an active Communist leader in West Bengal after India’s independence. He loved the French culture of “camarade” meaning a companion and equal. The Russians first adopted this word as “comrade” and used it in the 1917 October Revolution to unify Russia.
He said that by going to live in France, the humanitarian land of freedom of expression, foreign artists such as Vincent van Gogh could positively transform their colour palette.
He influenced me against British political culture that had made us homeless refugees.
I became totally fascinated by French art, and impatient to be an artist in France. So in 1973, without completing art school in Kolkata and with only $8 that I could afford, I adventured into Paris at age 19.
In Paris, I somehow found a sweeper’s job in a lithography printshop. Here I met lots of famous contemporary painters of that time.
Simultaneously I got the chance to be admitted to Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts and Academie Julian in Paris, but I could not finish any degree or diploma in art for scarcity of funds.
WESTERN PULL 1977 ONWARDS:
It’s been incredible how French society and people in the west have actively acknowledged my art at a pre-eminent level, giving me the opportunity to introduce it across 5 continents.
One day in 1991, on a long flight from Hongkong to Paris, I started to introspect on my artistic life. I had entered and approached France with lots of love, hope, courage and tireless hard work.
I used to work 15 to 18 hours a day, in spite of initially facing untold financial and immigration problems. This brought me huge proximity to the various levels of French society that I was interacting with for varied work reasons.
Subsequently, the west reacted very positively to my art and labour-intensive work, giving me the space to express my imagination, to survive as an artist.
So what are the things that supported my quitting a squatted refugee camp to enter into the heart of western art? The answer that came to me was “love and courage.”
This is the way I had left India, and “love and courage” is what has made my art form earn respect and acceptance in the west. So since 1991, I have started using Love and Courage as my signature.
Love and Courage can never ever have any association with religion or politics. Only Love and Courage can bring us harmonious human-eco-friendly existence today and tomorrow.