Appreciating Hindu Mythology
A Look into Indian Artist Sanjoy Das and His Works Presented at the Washington Theological Union
by Arjumand Hamid
special contributor to washintonart

Sanjoy Das
Incarnation IV
oil on canvas, 28 " x 36 "

This exhibit presents Das’ mesmerizing works in oil and acrylic on canvas, conveying the different avatar stages of the Hindu God Vishnu, the "Incarnation" series. Alongside them are a number of works from a more recent abstract series, entitled "The Holy Basil".  It is a transcendental, spiritual experience to study Das’ paintings.  The closer one looks at them, the more one discovers. It is beyond a telling of a story. It almost seems like the event is actually taking place in front of you. One work in particular shows this. Called “Incarnation IV," it shows Vishnu in the form of Buddha with exquisite detail in the background. The colors, the form, the subject, the size of the work, are quite breathtaking. It exemplifies Das’ artistic ambition and talent. This piece, along with the other installments, influenced a number of bids from visitors, though selling his works was less of an intention and more of a pleasant surprise. And although the artist himself could not make it to the exhibit from Calcutta, it was wonderful that his works could be shown.

Sanjoy Das
The Holy Basil I
oil on canvas, 14" x 18"

The title of the show, Hindu Mythology Brought to Life: The Paintings of Sanjoy Das, appropriately defines Das’ precariously balanced works. Reflecting on his own work, Das has said “the sense of anxiety and the absurd in my sub conscious, as I respond to the hypocrisy which infects our social and political order, gradually reveals itself in imagery which evolves from the real to the surreal…To me, paintings are not only the product of technique and intellect. They are also the sum of emotional vibrations resonating in a sensitive mind.”

I hear a lot about the DC art scene not being up to par, lacking diversity, and lagging far behind New York.  This view is mistaken: Das’s exhibit, at the Washington Theological Union in Takoma Park, is just one example of  the richness in art that the DC metropolitan area has to offer. Though overshadowed by the big shows and the big scandals of the Smithsonian Institutions, the local gallery scene here is vast and diverse.

Sanjoy Das
Incarnation VI
oil on canvas, 27" x 27"

With the continuing efforts of artists such as Kathy Keler, who organized the this exhibit, and Patrick Ellis, curator of the Washington Theological Union's art program, along with those who understand what it means to bring works of art from around the world to the DC area, the diversity of DC’s art scene can truly flourish. One does not have to rely on what the “big boy” museums decide to show and can actually experience works of other artists whose reputations have been established on a smaller scale, but still have more than enough significance to be shown throughout the world. Anyone would only be lucky enough to see works such as that of Sanjoy Das’ and discover for themselves what an amazing experience it is.