Artists who make the patachitra scrolls are known as Patuas and hence his name – Kalam Patua. From patachitra to Kalighat painting was an easy transition for the adept artist who has carried forward his passion for creative work, balancing it with his job as a postmaster in the local office. Given his large body of work, Kalam is credited with reinventing the lost genre of popular 19th century bazaar art of Kalighat in Bengal. Incorporating some influence of the Company School, Kalam’s work, mostly on paper, comes in quickly drawn bold lines in a multihued palette. In content, his art engages with socio-religious themes and pokes fun at middle-class double standards. The characters can be mythological or men and women of the present-day society. The compositions are sketched in detail with bare essentials in the background. His delightful icons, deities and folklore are collected as souvenirs by devotees and pilgrims while his playful and charming compositions based on contemporary themes go mainly to urban and global collectors. Deceptively simple, his work can be provocative, offering profound comments on society.
This artwork description has been sourced from Kalam Patua’s artist page on Forms of Devotion: The Spiritual in Indian Art.
Born in 1962 in West Bengal, Kalam Patua learnt to draw and paint in the ancient patachitra scroll style at the age of ten under the watchful guidance of his uncle, late Baidyanath Patua. Kalam Patua is one of the few remaining Kalighat painters of today and has taken upon himself the task of reviving and promoting Kalighat painting. When Kalam Patua began making Kalighat paintings, the tradition had all but died out, replaced successively by cheaper wood-prints and then machine printed images. He began by learning from existing works, painstakingly copying the pieces till he mastered the art. It was not easy as he had a full-time job in the post-office but soon, reviving Kalighat art became a passion.
Kalam’s works are part of the permanent collection of National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi , National Museums, Liverpool, UK., the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, and QAGOMA, Brisbane, Australia. In 2003, Dr Jyotindra Jain curated a solo show by Kalam at Gallery Espace, New Delhi. His works have been part of shows across India and abroad.