Art on paper is back with a bang

New Delhi, May 29 (Calcutta Tube) For nearly three decades, art paper had been pushed to the background with the arrival of canvas. But the medium has evolved in seclusion over the years because of a small group of loyalists.

Twenty Indian veteran artists are showing more than 40 compositions at Gallery Ensign in an exhibition here titled, ‘It’s Now on Paper’. The works cover genres like water colours, charcoal etchings, pencil drawings, ink etchings and drawings in gold and crayons.

The drawings are diverse. Masters of the 1960s and 1970s like Jogen Chowdhury, A. Ramachandran, Sanat Kar, K.G. Subramanyam, Chameli Ramachandran, Jyoti Bhatt and Sakti Burman’s compositions have been influenced by nature.

The relatively younger artists like Arpana Caur, C. Jagdish and K.R. Subanna have blended human forms and nature in delicate compositions, almost surreal in treatment, on a variety of paper.

‘Every artist scribbles on paper before painting. Hence paper work forms the vary basis of art,’ artist K.R. Subanna, who works on Nepali rice paper procured from Assam, told IANS.

‘Artists like K.G. Subramanyam still work on paper on a regular basis. Paper art finds few takers as the majority of buyers still prefer the heavier canvas art.’

Among other prominent artists displaying at the exhibition are Thota Vaikuntam, Laxma Goud, Sunil Das, Gogi Saroj Pal, Ved Nayar, Rabin Mandal, S.G. Vasudev, R.B. Bhaskaran, Surya Prakash and P. Khemraj.

Seema Subanna, director of Gallery Ensign, said ‘paper works were more spontaneous, almost like the signature of the artist.’

‘Lines on paper have more fluidity and paper art is much cheaper than canvas. They are also portable,’ she told IANS. The paper works at her gallery are priced Rs.45,000 and upwards, at least three times less than a canvas by the same artist.

Art paper is now available in special acid-free surfaces and digital hi-tech finish to lend works longer shelf life and greater clarity.

Watercolour paper has an interesting history. It was made around the time Ts’ai Lun patented papermaking in China in 105 AD.

Western watercolour paper, as we know it today, was developed in the second half of the 18th century. James Whatman paved the way for the development of watercolour paper when under commission in the late 1750s, he replaced the traditional coarse laid wire screen of papermaking mould with a wire screen so fine that it was called ‘wire cloth’.

This facilitated an even formation of pulp fibres without any textural impressions left on the surface of the newly-formed paper.

Whatman made paper available in three finishes – ‘hot press’, ‘not (cold press)’ and ‘rough’. He has been credited with the adaptation of the ‘hard-size (alum-gelatin) for use in watercolour paper.

Whatman, Saunders and Strathmore papers, as well as Fabriano and the Royal Watercolour Society Paper, are still among the world’s finest.

The exhibition that began May 27 will close July 10.

(Madhushree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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