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“I never thought I will become a painter”: Jagadish Dey

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Jagdish Dey’s early paintings were transformed landscapes, based on his flights of fancy. It showed in a surrealistic fashion, cloud like forms ethereally suspended in air. The whole situation was like a dream, where the real and unreal coexist. Born, 1942, at Bangladesh; Mr. Dey graduated from School of Art, Delhi polytechnic in 1963, He then served as Faculty member, College of Art, New Delhi from 1965-2002. He has been awarded AIFACS Awards in 1969,1982, Sahitya Kala Parishad’s Award in 1981,82,89, Senior fellowship awarded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India in 1998 and National Academy Award by Lalit Kala Academy,2000. His works have been exhibited at Triveni Kala Sangam in 1966,1979,1981, Dhoomimal Gallery in 1990,92,94,2001, Taj Art Gallery, Mumbai in 1985,92,94,96,98, Sanskriti Art Gallery, Kolkata 1993 and Jehangir Art Gallery, Here is his interview:

Ashish: What is the story behind you becoming an artist?
Jagadish Dey:
Since my school days, I was interested in art. And by interest, I mean to say that I used to draw goddesses and film actors. I never thought I will become a painter. I got a lot of praise from my art teacher and classmates but it took a lot of time for me to understand what art really is. I started to get special invitations and started getting awards. My mother wanted me to become an artist while my father wanted me to go for engineering.

Ashish: What inspires you to put your energy into art? 
Jagadish Dey:
I think I was in class 9th, there used to be a big function at our town in Assam where people from different fields –music, art, and dance were invited. I was asked to decorate the theatre stage there. One painter was invited from Kolkata. His name was Gautam. He taught me about art. He took me to Brahmputra. We were living near Kamakhya temple. He came to our house. We only had ink and paper. He sat outside our house and painted the landscape visible from there. My father asked me to go to Shilong to his friend where I tried making landscapes. I started to understand different views and colors. Then I came back to Kolkata and that was the beginning. My mother knew about Baroda University and Shanti Niketan. Everything was settled for me to go to Shanti Niketan. My uncle (mamaji) came to Delhi and saw an advertisement of Delhi Polytechnic, where there was an art course. I came to Delhi as I was invited for the interview. I discussed Assam as my interviewer was also from Assam. Jibeswar Baruah was one of the known artists in Guwahati. He also guided me, which helped me a lot at the College of Art. Umesh Varma, Manjit Bawa, Gokal Dembi and I used to work together. They were my classmates. We used to go to different places on the bicycle. During our studies, we used to do everything together. After passing out from the college, I was lucky enough to have teachers like Sailoz Mukherjea, Viren dey, Jaya Goswami, Vimal Dasgupta, Mr. Hore and others.  I was lucky enough to have their blessings. In 1963 I passed out from college, and in 1965 I joined College of Art as a Lecturer. I taught there for 35 years. And five years as a student. Earlier it was the School of Art then it became the College of Art. During my studies, I received many awards. I still remember once when Mr. K. S. Kulkarni awarded me 25 rupees.

Ashish: What material do you use in your painting?
Jagadish Dey:
Oil paint, watercolor, crayon, acrylic on canvas and on paper. I also do graphic art/printmaking. In the college, I was in-charge of lithography department.

Ashish: Who is your favorite artist(s) and why? 
Jagadish Dey:
Indian artists: Sailoz Mukherjea, Jaimini Roy and J Swaminathan.
I always liked the works of Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gustav Klimt
Sailoz Mukherjea’s work- the application of colors, landscapes, and figures attracted me a lot. I got inspiration from all of them.

Ashish: As an artist, what do you think needs to be done in order to reach out to more people? 
Jagadish Dey:
As an artist, I think that in our education system right from the primary classes children should be introduced to art so that they can understand the value of art. This can develop the taste of art in the children. Interest grows organically.

Ashish: What difference do you find between the audience of Indian and abroad? 
Jagadish Dey:
Abroad, children are introduced to art from the beginning. Common people have access and understanding of art, which has not come overnight.

Ashish: Is art limited, to some classes in India? If so, what are the reasons behind it? 
Jagadish Dey:
Some people understand and some do not- it is the classes who belong to the art circle. The common man does not have that kind of luxury.

Ashish: How do you see the economics of art in India? 
Jagadish Dey:
Middlemen are involved.

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