Ashim PurkayasthaAshim Purkayastha

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"I don't see myself just as an artist, but as an activist, who is trying to draw attention to the dying arts. The Supreme Courts judgment three years ago, allowing the commercial use of forest resources has left lakhs unemployed in Assam. "The clay and straw goddesses of 6 to 9 feet have been replaced by images of permanent material like stone and concrete of 13 to 16 ft. in height. A layer of poisonous gases emitted by the oil refinery covers Digboi, my hometown. The fire of the inflammable gasses is seen in the paddy fields. Time is measured by the factory whistle. The agricultural fields are being turned into tea gardens. Hills are being created by waste material."

Ashim Purkayastha sees himself as a social activist as much as a painter and captures the trauma and the problems of his home state, Assam, on canvas. "A respite at Santiniketan, where I studied, gave me temporary relief and I stopped drawing what troubled me in Assam. But a brief stay in Baroda, and then in Delhi city, brought back the imagery of the land that linked my past to my present," he says.

In several of his landscapes, Purkayastha uses cut-outs, layering them with three-dimensional compositions that capture the space around them. "My work is not nostalgic," he insists, "it takes on the problems of an industrialising society head-on."

Purkayastha grew up in the oil town of Digboi in Assam, and went on to study art at Santiniketan, where he was a student of the well-known painter Jogen Chowdhury.

At Santiniketan, he studied and also painted various folk traditions and did a comparative study of popular art. These influences go into making some of his works . He has also drawn inspiration from Delhi, and he often uses images like the closed cubes of a city, the television set and every-day use articles.

Ashim Purkayastha lives and works in Delhi.


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