Over the last three decades or more, Jayashree Chakravarty’s art practice has addressed the exigent situation of shrinking natural habitat and water bodies in ever-expanding Indian cities. Living by herself in a rapidly urbanizing suburb of Kolkata in Eastern India, she has been a witness to the rich marshlands of Salt Lake transform into ‘Salt Lake City’ a sprawling suburban development, exemplary of congestive urbanism and a growing hostility towards the ecology of life. Her work then extrapolates this loss, reacting and reflecting upon a fast disappearing natural world. Nature no longer is a force independent of human impact and control. Jayashree reminds us that the earth is continuously being pushed towards a precarious edge, where the threat of daily damage has taken on precipitous dimensions. Through poetic evocations, she weaves into her personal vision the need for environmental healing and resurrection.
Having grown up in Tripura, the artist frequently visited the lush northeast Indian jungles with her father who was a doctor and an avid naturalist. Jayashree vividly recalls her formative years, when she was exposed to the joys of wonderment at every little discovery in the world around her. She was made aware of cycles of bloom and decay, insects and birds building their homes sharing the same tree and the symbiotic relation of things around her.
Nature for her ceases to be a ‘view of the landscape’ frozen in time but has always meant the extended holistic environment that can neither be captured nor comprehended from a single vantage point. Her soaring paper installations hence opt for a mobile vision that takes the viewer’s gaze along to glide over the surface of her unframed scrolls as well as penetrate the layers underneath.
Working with organic material – medicinal seeds, roots, dry leaves, sap, dry flowers, nature is both the subject and substance of her art. It is both context and content for her ruminations on inhabiting and preserving the earth.
Jayashree Chakravarty was born in Khoai, Tripura in 1956. She completed her Bachelors in Fine Arts from Viswa Bharati in the sprawling natural environs of Santiniketan, and then obtained her postgraduate diploma in Fine Arts from the MS University of Baroda, where she was exposed to an urban sensibility. She was also an artist in residence at Aix en Provence from 1993-95, where she was influenced in the formative years of her practice by the French movement Supports/Surfaces, especially by Claude Viallat.
She spent her early years in Kolkata, in the proximity of hills and forests thereby coming across a variety of flora and fauna. Soon, the township became a concrete jungle, with few traces of the natural past left behind. This influenced her paintings, where the old and new cityscapes are melded with a fine expertise. An occasional bird, a broken window, or a brick wall emerge out of the mossy hue and mouldy texture of some of the works.
Inventing her own art making techniques, using organic material and varied kinds of papers, her installations in the form of paper scrolls remain unique in their conceptions and execution. Her works are autobiographical and dream-like in nature. Her ink on paper sketches are exercises in transition and transform personal experience into mystical truth. She experiments with an exciting variety of media like rice paper, tissue and cellophane. In her works, she uses superimposed forms, quite like the sketches that cave painters worked on before they mapped them on the walls of caves. Her imagery, because of her fluid and transparent images, reflect the present mood of the world, which is fluid in itself. At a mere conventional and figurative level, her works reflect the unity of man with nature. Motifs such as dogs, waves and serried crescent shapes recur in her works.
She received the Gujarat Lalit Kala Akademi Award and the Second Bharat Bhavan Biennale Award in 1988. She has also been honoured with Bombay Art Society Award, Mumbai (1980) and Honourable Mention Award, Asian Art Biennial, Dhaka, Bangladesh (1997) to name a few. The artist lives and works in Kolkata.