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Pratul Dash


Bachelor of Fine Arts, B.K. College of Arts & Crafts, Bhubaneswar, India, 1995
M.F.A (Painting), College of Art, New Delhi, India, 1998
Important scholarship :Inlaks
Born: Burla, Sambalpur, Orissa

The Horror Show is an installation against violence. The viewer is invited to sit down at a table and browse through the images in a photo album. The photos are, however, not of the kind we are used to finding in somebody's home, but depict victims of massacres and wars. From hidden speakers in the room we can hear people crying and suffering. The sound was recorded on location in Nepal, but has been distorted with the help of Peter Verwimp in order not to belong to one particular place, but to be universal. These issues are not only confined to Nepal, India or the Middle East, it's something that concerns all of us, everywhere. Next to the photo album, the viewer can find paper and pens and write down his/her opinions on the matter. Pratul will later send these letters to the UN.

Pratul has also worked on a proposal for the design of Illy Cafe coffee cups and plates. The cups and plates are decorated with photos of the thumbs of people from different classes of society, of different colours, religions, professions, and so on. The cup of coffee therefore becomes a meeting-place where social aspects are no longer relevant and Pratul hopes it will help to bridge the gaps between people.

He has also been thinking a lot about the relationship between architecture and human beings. All buildings have their own history and he's interested in studying how we react to it.

The works done during Pratul’s formative years exemplified his existential dilemmas in a sharper way. He made his self portrait in various postures, at times going to the levels of contortionism. These portraits were seen against the backdrop of barren lands and abandoned city scapes. The sparsely inhabited cities become a metaphor for him to emphasize his angst as a lonely man who traverses through un-chartered paths. The egg shaped forms, or melting ice forms blown up beyond the point of reality gagged his portraits that forced him into a struggle of muteness. He vocalized his concerns through these mute and mutant images.

His sustained interest in postmodern theories and various articulations of these has taken Pratul Dash to make a lot of works on paper also. His water colours deal with the particularities of an urban space; especially the displacement of the self and body in relationship with the animal imageries that are seen quite unnatural in the naturalness of the urban aloofness. The animals that abundantly come to play a dominant role in the pictorial renditions of Pratul Dash underline the unnatural existence of the human beings within the alienated modern and post modern urban locales.

A series of paintings on contortionism has helped Pratul to bring in his observations on the dilemma of contemporary lives. Also the recent video works that he had done when he was in Italy and later in New Delhi show his engagement with the spaces of commodities and commodification. Extensive footages of malls and mannequins are edited skillfully to create a hyper reality that corresponds to the erotic and ethical instincts of the consumer man. These videos function as a field of retrospection and introspection rather than an active critique on accentuated consumerism.

One of his video works that Pratul has specially prepared for his major solo exhibition shows the artist in his native village in Orissa. He is seen in an act of tying himself with a thread, which could be a sacred thread that demarcates his caste position, around his head and face. The violent action with which he ties himself turns his face into a distorted mass and the untying of the thread leaves a mesh of markings on the skin. It looks like a body drawing, using body as the medium and surface. Like a Chris Burden or Vito Acconci he inflicts pain on himself to eke out a meaning of affection, infliction and restoration.

Pratul in his concept note on this work states: “One might get a strange sense of relief as the performance unwinds and the distorted image of the face gains balance. What remain are the marks of the string’s path of punishment and an extremity of detachment and peace in the end. It is a kind of come back for me in my native land.” This coming back (of a not so prodigal son) is substantiated by further enactment of the same action in artificial situations, edited and incorporated into the main body of the video work. Pratul Dash is a painter who cares for the environment and his fellow humans, and uses his canvas to voice his cares. Every work of art is a window to its makers’ beliefs — aesthetic, political, philosophical...whatever. In the case of Pratul Dash, that window is wide open. You can see Dash’s engagement with social and political issues affecting the country all over the canvases, photographs and videos .

Large vistas of bare landscapes; geometrical blocks evocative of the concrete maze our cities have become today; scaffoldings, ladders and pipelines that seem to stretch into infinity — these are recurring tropes in Dash’s work, used to signal the paradoxes of urbanisation, of the country’s headlong rush towards Western-style development, leading to the depletion of forests and alienation of individuals. “I have nothing against the growth of the country, but my concern is with the cost of it,” Pratul Dash says.

Pratul says that during his stay in Nepal he could see the pain in the eyes of people. The day he got there he saw the news on TV about the massacre of a family. Pratul went the following day with an artist friend to scene of the crime, the only survivors were the mother and her two-year-old child. It was a shocking and difficult sight. He strongly believes that silence is not a solution to these situations and he has continued working on these matters to bring the issue in front of an international community and ask for our direct participation. Working at Cittadellarte has helped Pratul realise that it is possible to create networks and move art out of the galleries and into society. It's the artist's duty to deal with social issues. Besides many exhibitions in India, his works are exhibited at USA, UK, Italy, Honk Kong and Dubai.