Asu Dev

Asu Dev - A Pioneering Artist

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(Excerpts from an article by Nilkamal Dutta, an art critique and close associate of Asu Dev.) 

Asu Dev’s passion for painting developed into an article of faith. Painting, he feels, is but an expression of that conviction. The process has, however, not been easy enough, particularly because like the very few un-academic artists who achieved eminence, he had never been to what we call an academy and gone through its cast-iron courses. He had to go the whole hog himself learning to wield the brush and the palette the hard way and, of course, learn how to paint a tree unlike an academic tree.

This mainly explains why his paintings may appear to some as rather unconventional. Technically speaking, it was an initial advantage for Dev to start uninhibited and un-handicapped by some set patterns and dab his brush in paints not taught to him, thus bringing in a freshness which might have otherwise been difficult to achieve. Freshness is the term by which one could almost sweepingly characterise Dev’s whole range of works. 

It is very difficult to place Asu Dev in any known school of technique. The technique of the palette he employs – painting laboriously with paints in his earlier works, and later with the palette-knife and whatever comes in handy, or directly from the pigment tubes on canvases done in oil – have sometimes driven people to conclude that he is an adherent of pointillist Seurat or colour-breaking Cezanne, nineteenth century French Impressionists. (Who does not follow broken colours and light since the Impressionists started it?) Although Dev also paints impromptu like the French Romanticists, the total visual effect of his works is mostly three-dimensional. Most of these have a perspective with the minutest detail and a depth, never sought after by the Impressionists. Like the nineteenth century French rebels again, Dev went out of the studio (he had none!) into the open to paint the ripening corn fields shimmering under the golden sunlight, women harvesting crops or fishing in a pond, a happy valley dreamily nestling under a mellow sky, sturdy hill folk carrying timber to town and innumerable landscapes typical of this part of the country.

In the second group of paintings done later, Dev emerges with more social awareness and projects his thoughts consciously and forcefully. Sometimes he invokes a sort of symbolism to portray his subjective realities to the extent of an imaginative bias that drives him farthest from the Impressionists, but neither nearer to any other school. This group of canvases is heavy with brown, blue and green pigments, relieved with ochre and occasional orange, a break with the past both in content and colour. These paintings seek to primarily convey a meaning beyond and behind their visual images and have an unmistakable appeal to the intellect…

Original article published in The Hindusthan Times, Shillong in 1965.


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