The dreamer does not know that he is dreaming… – Christian Metz
About Durga Kainthola
To what may we attribute our fascination for the image a pleasure whose object is not the image itself but something of the order of fantasy, whose home is the realm of the inscrutable, the unconscious?
Durga Kainthola’s imaginative world is like a deep dream in which we sink readily. The true source of her compelling compositions appears to lie in her personal sensibility and independent mind…a ceremony of psychic import that the artist justifies through the creation of intricate shapes, forms and colors.
The artist spent a great part of her life in Bombay and was captivated by the impressions of bare feet on sandy beaches. “In spite of the absence of the person themselves, their presence seemed to continue, and that is where I found my path as a painter,” she says. As she kept looking at the footprints, they grew upon her as impressions on time, took larger dimensions. Excited her senses and dominated her work.
Belonging to Garhwal district of Uttaranchal. Durga was born in Calcutta in 1962 and by the time she was nine years old, the family had moved on to Bombay. The fifth amongst seven brothers and sisters, Durga was aloof from all, including her parents; charged with an intense creativity, she made dolls out of clay and collages out of throw-away materials. While her parents took pride in her work, they were too preoccupied to think about her future yet till an outsider suggested that she should go to the J. J. School of Arts.
The day after she completed her school final, Durga rushed to procure forms for admission into J. J. School of Arts. The year was 1980, she was just 18. At the end of the first year of the diploma course, when she got her examination papers back, she could hardly believe that she had done so badly in drawing. She left J. J. School of Arts and went back to school to finish her twelfth standard and returned to J. J. School of Arts in 1982 this time to do her degree course, “it was not difficult to make handicrafts out of discarded material. But the actual art course was tough. It called for discipline, academic skill and concentration. I was inspired by my teacher Prabhakar Kolte, who was always ready to experiment and taught me to do the same.”
She gradually progressed from two-dimensional to three-dimensional work. Painted and sculpted. This was the period when she indulged in original thinking. When Kala Deep, the central social organization of the J.J. School of Arts, presented its annual art exhibition in February 1987, Durga won one of the coveted prizes. For the first time, she realized that art transcended the limits and frustrations of personal life and would ultimately give her the “room” she needed to live. She wrote in her diary: “Where I was born and where and how I live is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be interest.”
The year 1989 found her in Baroda doing her post-graduation in art under very sympathetic teachers such as Nasreen Mohamedi and Gulam Mohammed Sheikh. At the M.S. University, Durga picked up narrative work, using oils on canvas and watercolors on paper. The figures she painted sort of floated in space and were experimental in nature. She built up an intellectual relationship with Nasreen Mohamedi who, she said, “had a way of understanding the student and the works she/he did”, and got along extremely well with her kind of teaching. The post-graduation course lifted her spirits as a combination of ability and innovation underlined her creative journey
Returning to Bombay in 1989, Durga worked as a drawing teacher in Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School where she extended the same freedom to the children that she had enjoyed under her teachers in Baroda. In the process, her mind began clearing up and she started exploring the new psychological issues in her art world.
…ultimately the dreamworks become a ‘bridge’ between unconscious fantasy and the effects of reality.
Durga Kainthola’s conviction that her art has liberated her from the mundane ties of common life which are hard and inescapable has also given her the will she needs to become one of India’s significant younger artists.