The Muse and his Metropolis

GIANT GUWAHATIAN

Guwahati has grown into a city without really meaning to be a city. From a centre of pilgrimage to a boisterous city, from tin-roofed small houses to tall skyscrapers — the city has grown seamlessly as the waters of the mighty Brahmaputra which flows by the side of the historic city. A recent survey (2006) by a popular Indian magazine – Outlook (Money) ranked Guwahati 16th among all the major and medium sized Indian cities.

But the individuals who lend a warmth and character to the city had never been celebrated. This is an attempt to honour Guwahatians who are either born in the city or have made the city their home and have been responsible for taking the name of the city to the world. The Thumb Print, a contemporary news magazine (www.thethumbprintmag.com) will honour the Giant Guwahatians from different walks of life who have left their imprint on the city.

Teresa Rehman catches up with young artist Ranjan Engticode who is striving to give a character to Guwahati city through his art

In the first glance, House No 5 A at the end of the lane in Guwahati’s Pensionpara Road doesn’t look unusual. But as one steps inside the studio-cum-home of Visual Artist Ranjan Engticode, it’s a riot of colours with painting, photographs and pop art of various hues adorning the walls. One has to strain one’s ears to listen to the soft-spoken artist’s voice. At 28, he has not only succeeded in carving a niche for himself but has also been successful in giving a character to Guwahati city through the campaign “I am Responsible”, an initiative of District Disaster Management Authority, Kamrup Metro, Guwahati.

He has devised an innovative poster campaign under the guidance of Ashutosh Agnihotri, Deputy Commissioner, Kamrup Metro, which is featuring some of the leading citizens of the city who claim, “I am Responsible”. “I wanted to do something which is sweet and strikes the right chord. Even if a small kid learns to be responsible from our campaign, we would be successful,” he adds. He adds that his style is Pop Art. “I am experimenting with urban and socio-political issues. The normal exhibitions that we do in galleries are abstract paintings which common people do not understand. He is striving to take art as a concept among the common masses.

This young artist hails from Behali in Sonitpur district of Assam. A graduate in History from Delhi University, he also did a course from the National Gallery of Modern Art. He had always wanted to be an artist, so, while he was in college, he was actively involved with the College Fine Arts Society. During the College Week, he was adjudged the Artist of the Year, which was like a reawakening for him. Then he formed his group “Curves and Shades” with artists, filmmakers and photographers and held professional exhibitions in Delhi.

He was successful in making his presence felt in creative circles in Delhi as well as the North east. His works are being constantly exhibited and reviewed in different places & publications. The imagery influenced by Warhol and Pop Art, brings bold and strong colours to his palette which could turn an empty canvas into a 'can't-ignore-this’ type of work, setting a whole new standard for artists, viewers and critics. His works consciously depicts socio-political issues which draws appreciation by all sections of critics and art connoisseurs. The painting “Medusan Ecstasy” made an entry to the "Seeking Kali" blog for the Medusa artist call. This will be included in the "Seeking Kali" video that will be sent to the State Library of Victoria, Australia to be kept with the collection with the "Kali Edition" and all relating materials for the public to view.

In 2010, he came to Guwahati for his exhibition in Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra and got involved with the Karbi Youth Festival. “I did not feel like going back. I thought I could do something more concrete here. Guwahati has a lot of potential,” he says. There was no looking back. He started getting commissioned and commercial work in hotels, bars and companies. He had a painting called Metropolis which he converted into an event and is now a brand.

Metropolis does collaborative work with local artists and musicians. He did a collective event in Guwahati where both the old and the young participated. Metropolis toured the entire region and was appreciated by many. Ranjan’s work is a blend of folk, ethnicity and computer graphics. He says, “Many artists around the world have shown that art and politics can mix, such as Diego Rivera, Summer Lewis, Fernando Botero. I think it is up to the preference of the Artist, and deciding to not mix Politics in your Art, or keep it clean of Politics…..is also a political act.”

He calls Guwahati city the capital of Northeast India. It is also his ‘Karmabhoomi’. Guwahati is growing at a fast pace. He smiles, “Guwahati has everything. It can well be a creative and a commercial hub. All depends on how well we can portray it.”

His favorite spot in the city is the riverside which he finds soothing and peaceful. He loves hanging out by the banks of the Brahmaputra. “We have such a huge resource by our side. If only we could have harnessed it appropriately. There are so many stories on the Saraighat. We could even make a good war movie,” he says. As for now, he is striving for a cleaner Guwahati and responsible Guwahatians.

Ranjan wants to get gritty with his art. His art is not confined to the canvas. He sums up, “Take a walk and see the COLORS….Take a walk and see the SHAPE…..Oh I see ART everywhere!”

TESTIMONIAL: Ashutosh Agnihotri. Deputy Commissioner, Kamrup Metro, Assam

"Ranjan is an extremely positive and creative person, who has the passion and ability to turn this world more beautiful. He is endowed with rich imagination and is fired by the desire to be an agent of change. I am happy that Ranjan and his brilliant team are with us in our modest efforts to give Guwahati its due- the beauty, grace and dignity that it deserves. I wish Ranjan all the best."

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