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Silent screams of nostalgia

An exhibition of sketches on Kolkata by illustrator-sculptor Jacques Servières invokes emotions for the city dwellers and provides a glimpse to the foreigners

Samprit Majumdar | Kolkata |

Kolkata, which is popularly known as the city of joy is also a city of emotions. She is chaotic. She is turbulent. Her beauty is omnipresent in all corners of the city but it doesn’t lie in symmetry. One needs an artistic eye to recognise it. From the street side tea stall to the hand pulled rickshaw, in a random narrow alley which takes one back in time, the city subtly entices one to feel for her. However, this charm can be easily overlooked, especially in the busy metro life.

In a recent exhibition at The Zs’ Precinct in Dover Lane, titled “Ballade Au Crayon Noir: Where Heritage Meets Life”, French illustrator-sculptor Jacques Servières portrayed the rich heritage of Kolkata, and the French colonial heritage of Chandannagar. The exhibition was hosted by Alliance Française du Bengale in association with Consulate General of France in Kolkata.

Servières’ works reflect Kolkata through the eyes of an artist who is a foreigner to the city. His sketches are not too detailed. Instead they focus on light and shade in a rather eccentric way, the result of which is the perfect portrayal of the chaotic pulse of the city. The paintings make one think that the heritage of Kolkata not only finds expression in its buildings, but also in the vignettes of life and situation deeply ingrained in the city. His sketches captured the ambience and emotions of particular situations.

The Victoria Memorial, museum of Chandannagar, a crowded bazaar, a ghat, or merely a rickshaw — whatever the subject of the sketch, he captures them as a fleeting moment, making them look even more precious. They are usually accompanied by individuals or objects, almost as if to portray a moving scene. To someone who is familiar with the city and its surroundings, the sketches might invoke a memory or an emotion. To someone who is not, it is sure to give a glimpse.

Servières is the man behind the open air sculpture garden on the banks of river Marne in France. The sculpture of this garden is made with the stones of the old Dhuys aqueduct that supplied water to Paris. The work in stone sculpting took a toll on his health, and he switched to sketching and painting. He has travelled to many places including Honduras, Latin America, and Nepal for his work. A small fisherman’s stool, a fine pen and a large sketchbook – that’s all he needs to discover the “Incredible India”. These three elements are essential to translate his emotions onto the sheet of white Canson in different environments. Coupled with much excitement and haste, he is quick to produce the different scenes that this country offers him with all its charm and colours.

Hosted in a restored old home from the 1930s and thus part of Kolkata’s heritage, the paintings fused with jazzy French music created a soothing atmosphere that silently screams nostalgia.

Art connoisseur Rajesh Sen, who is the curator-creator of the gallery, was really excited to host the exhibition. “The featured drawings of the heritage of Calcutta and its surrounding towns were a great fit of similar emotions,” he said