THE bold outlines filled with primary colours in vibrant shades speak volumes for the extraordinary courage this young artist had. In life she was fighting a battle with a malignant tumour for 12 painful years. But on canvas Arpita Bhattacharya was a highly energetic artist, charged by a passion which she had tamed into creating methodical strokes and lines. The passion, the mysticism - the almost fairy-tale like ambience - that was so characteristic of her works had touched artist Arpana Caur so that she called them "brave work by a brave girl".
Arpita died last August, but her water-colours remain, much like a reassertion of her undying spirit. All through her little life, she had tried constantly to evolve, to develop her vision. Even during her last term at the London School of Economics when she knew death was knocking at her door, Arpita was constantly experimenting with her technique. The usually placid blue and green gave way to the more star red, yellow and orange. The proof of which can be seen in a show which will be running at the Kolkata Information Center from 1 to 5 May. Do drop in and take a walk with this remarkably spirited artist.


Transforming a deadly disease into a fight for living is something ARPITA BHATTACHARYA knew about only too well. Fighting an aggressive tumour for 12 years, she translated all her inner pain and trauma onto paintings on her palate. And now, her works will be on display the GAGANENDRA PRADARSHASALA from MAY 11-5, between 3-8 pm. The exhibition has been termed, Walk with me, and is a form of salute to her in-domitable spirit. Arpita's tryst with colours started when she was only two years old. She won several art competitions, holding her first exhibition in 1999. Though she never had any professional training in art, she was taught how to hold a brush, mix colours and build the content of her canvas by her mother. " She felt the real challenge in life was to think and to question, and that was the goal she strove towards, even in the last year of her life, while spending a term at the London School of Economics," said a family source. She had the courage to defy a fate that her chosen an ultimely end for her, but her paintings speak of the strength to look death square in the eye. Through the complex interweaving of colours and imaginative use of discontinuities, her works reflect myriad moods, at times poignant, others exuberant and joyful. In her last few paintings, she broke her own tradition, and her usual colours of blue and green gave way to voilent red, yellow and orange colours, while the images of defiance are clearly understandable. As Arpita herself had explained, " Art is a form of meditation which allows me to be with myself, it helps me to connect my thoughts, understand them and it also acts as a catalyst for newer ones. In that sense it is fundamental to me ". She died last year, but lives on, through the paintings she created even as the disease tormented her body. " Colour, I believe, retains sanity in me and its nuances, through which I try to develop my thoughts, helps me explore the subtleties of the mind and recognise those around me," she had felt. Through the years, she had developed a unique style of painting, compounded of fluid lines and bold strokes, which underlined the sense of imaginativeness in all her works. The exhibition of course was arranged by her parents, who believe that the message Arpita wanted to portray to her paintings will touch the hearts and minds of all those who view them. Kolkata is the third destination for the exhibition, which originated in New Delhi, but they hope it will be take to other parts of India as well. - Kolkata Is Talking About....... -


Arpita Bhattacharya had shown me around at the first exhibition of her water colours three years ago. That memory weighed heavily on my mind when I visited her second exhibition. 'Walk with me' at Habiart Gallery, India Habitat Centre, last week. She had passed on, at age 24, last year. It is important to know this because most of the water colours on display were painted since the last exhibition, and several of them when she was in the last leg of an unequal fight with illness, in acute pain and under the the shadow of death she must have known was coming. It is a commonplace that to understand an artists' work one must know about his or her life, the environment and experiences that have shaped the self that expresses itself in art, the imagination that visualises it, and the connective perception that produces a metaphor for a situation. In Arpita's case illness-a tumour on the left arm that defied medical science and spread to her chest-had stalked her ever she was 11 and was in many ways the defining reality of her life, limiting the arm's use, preventing participation in sports and challenging physical activity, and requiring bouts of intensive treatment. Many others in her situation would have turned bitter with a negative, if not morbid, imagination tha imparted to her art the stamp of the gloom it found everywhere. It was just the opposite with Arpita. Acute adversity seemed to have given her a profound serenity and a luminous vision that saw what lay behind the apparent, the element that defined a moment, a situation or a scene, or the message a posture could convey. The two paintings entitled 'Gossip' depict, with striking realism, people absorbed in conversation, their postures conveying the intensity of their involvement. One of her water colours in the Blue Girls, series shows a girl tying her hair, her movements seemingly froze by-as the turn of her face suggests-a sudden recollection or a fleeting thought. A feeling of quite courage and strength-attributes she had unfailing shown throughout her life-permeates the three paintings entitled 'Shakti'. These and several other exhibits display a sensitive understanding of the language of facial expressions, of human anatomy and the way it expresses moods, impulses, resolve and responses through movement. Others display stillness and the many states of mind it can convey-anticipation, resignation, weariness, and serenity. Arpit's touch is firm yet delicate, her lines strong yet fluid, bringing to life a wide diversity of movements. At one end of the range is the wild as in Frenzy-Red, Frenzy-Peach and Frenzy-Blue, or the frenzied dancing in one of the pictures in the group entitled 'Journey'. At the other end is the measured-as in another exhibit of the 'Journey' group-showing a woman crossing a stream by balancing herself on rocks. Most of her pieces portray movement that is invaribly shown as a process of liberation-whether from the immediate in the form of journeys or from the restrictive and routine as in frenzied dancing. She however,presents frenzy not through movements that are jerky and suggestive of loss of control or violence, but through a number of bodies dancing gracefully in unison, shedding their inhibitions in joy, not in anger. It is frenzy that celebrates freedom. Was Arpita seeking in depiction the joy of freedom that others experience directly in their quotidians lives? The answer should be obvious to those familiar with the creative process. And the message comes out most poignantly in a picture, which she did not live to colour after having done the pencil drawing. It shows a young  woman, running all by herself, leaving a large tree behind, her clothes swept back by the wind. Was she depicting herself, moving away from the tree of life, running to take off, to soar beyond the sky and the horizon, to that limitless expanse of time and space where joy and freedom are one?