Sunil Das: the maverick genius.
Sunil Das returned to India after his international exposure & training in Paris & Madrid. While still at Art College in Calcutta, he wowed the art world with his representations of horses executed in ink, charcoal, pastel & conte with a flair & vivacity that bought the animal to life on the surface on which they were drawn-speeding, grazing, resting & thoightful-capturing the animal in its various moods & stances. Though he engaged with the subject & later with the Bull, after his visit to Madrid with a deep & continued passion, it is unfair to limit the artistic achievements of Sunil Das to only that. Throughout his life, Das covered a wide range of subjects that were also representative of his various concerns & connections with the world, in & outside India.
Sunil Das encountered the bull while on a trip to Spain in 1962.
An avid traveller, Sunil was always on the move, ready to take off whenever the opportunity arose. Paris & Madrid were alluring places to learn one’s craft, besides being an opportunity to participate in the local culture. Madrid, allowed one to witness the spectacular & brutal sport of bull-fighting. Paris, with its vibrant street life, was a living museum of the arts, music & theatre. Paris took Sunil back & forth in time. The Louvre, on one hand introduced him to outstanding examples of Renaissance art & to the romantics, Delacroix & Francisco De Goya, while present day art exposed him to current trends & the avant-garde positions of modern & post-modern artists. Over the years, Sunil embraced different artistic flavours & preferences, never succumbing to the need for a singular or fixed direction & approach.Though horses & bulls as obsessive themes remained his favourites, he never discounted the many other stimuli to which he was visually & socially attracted to.
Horse by Sunil Das,1998.
F.N.Souza once wrote about Sunil Das in 1985: ” Sunil Das is a painter of tomorrow working today….his paintings are often about death & horror. But they are not illustrations or Grand Guignol.”
Sunil once said: “I work with my whole body, all my senses. I use any medium that appeals to me: thread, lac, gauze, nails, burnt plastic, vegetable dyes. I am unorthodox.I wish to break barriers.”
As age caught up,Sunil moved towards abstract & rarely painted his horse, a muse he loved so dearly. On being asked why so he said: “Capturing a stallion on paper was difficult, as it never stood still. I do not draw horses anymore,I have conquered them. But my current drawings retain that energy, the confidence that I had in myself.”
Sunil Das, justly carved out a niche for himself in the fast developing contemporary art scene in India. Exemplary hard work backed by enormous talent, imagination & a flair for experimentation made him an artist of dauntless spirit & continuously evolving creativity.
- Vinayak Pasricha.