Dilip Tamuly : A journey Through Art

An Article By Rupanjali Baruah

Where others have not dared to tread, he began his journey through art in a lonesome way, it has not mattered to him whether fame or recognition arrives for him, he is patient, he is observant. While most artists are dependent on gallery support, he listens to his heart and his instinct never deserts him; while many would not dare to try new untouchable colors or move away from traditional medium, creative purpose to him has social bearings and content. For him, art cannot exist in isolation; he would go on creating something different for his own self appeasement. And that is why, part of himself and part of the cosmos is always in all his works, and though sometimes, he may not embrace the entire universe and return to those private reactions, his dark white of his inside is his individual universe. He cannot however avoid the cry of society; his roots have gone deeper through his assimilation of his cultural ethos of his race particularly of Assam and the Northeast of India.

Dilip Tmuly’s journey began long time ago, perhaps when he set his foot on the sacred precinct of Santiniketan where his experiences shaped his sensibilities and gave him the essential strength to face and overcome the innumerable turmoil, hard realities and conflicts that soon came his way. He has learnt to survive and rise above those difficulties through his devout artistic endeavours. He started from bare natural roots and this certainly enhanced his art in an original way and thus at a very young age, he met with success in the European arena. He calls it his madness to have returned home, because he then lost his steady income, his family and so he had to go back to another kind of silence to rediscover ways and means to find a new foothold in his native soil. And slowly deliberately he could rebuild his world; he began to peep in through a small window to look at the vast world outside.

Dilip Tamuly began his first tryst with art through his experiments with water colour. In Santiniketan, he found himself drawn towards graphics, the black and white reality have stood by him ever since. Here he completed with distinction a Five year D Fine Arts and a Two year Postgraduate (dip) iwith first class position from Kala Bhawan, Vishwa Bharati University Santiniketan.While a student of fine arts, he was selected to hold a sponsored art exhibition in national and international art studios, this certainly gave a strong impetus to his future works. He also earned a one year Lalit Kala Akademi Research Scholarship and a two year PGT at Royal Danish Academy with Royal Danish scholarship. Some of the eminent galleries and places where Dilp Tamuly had held his exhibitions are –

Vingan Summer exhibition, Talamark, Norway, International Mini prints Biennial, Fadrikstad, Norway, International Graphics Biennial, Fadrikstad, Norway, International art exhibition, Spanish Center, Copenhagen, Denmark, Indian Print exhibition, Tropen Museum Gallery Amsterdam, Holland, Festival of Indian Contemporary Graphics Print Exhibition, USA, Indian Contemporary Youth Exhibition USSR, Cymoraza Art Gallery, Mumbai, Art Heritage, New Delhi and many other exhibitions in India and abroad.

Dilip Tamuly plays with images, looks at them through various perspectives, sometimes in direct relation to reality, sometimes there is a reverse order of things when fantasy suddenly grips him. Dilip Tamuly’s individual mysticism is related with social reality, it makes visual presentation aesthetically acceptable. he is not concerned with reality as it appears to many, he is with the inner nature, the subject may thus appear to be a caricature or seem exaggerated or distorted which truly reflects the inner self as it is.

Upadesha is a partly narrative work that defines his concept through two grotesque figures who share advices that leads to humane connection and understanding. Advice is free; a good advice leads to real growth of personality. The Baba series is a reflection of the artist’s own psychic state where he undergoes an inner struggle in his search for an assurance through a woman’s image, a profound feeling of love moves in and out of his memories, it arises with pain, it weeps for him and then he tries to control that sheer energy of love that is again a kind of misery, and thus he could convert misery into various planes and crisscross of feelings. To him, happiness is like a small boat in a vast ocean, a dream too emerges out of the dark precinct. Here Baba is himself and Ma is the woman in his reverie. It is therefore self reflective, a catharsis of release happens with the moment of its creation, the inner dark self is made to appear in the midst of smoke filled background that lurked around him. Black roundedness has always stood by him, his forms and figures have gone through different motions that followed a cyclical manner. The Trishul series reflects upon the changing character of man; how at birth, the child inherits no religion, is not aware of his gender or nature but as socio cultural factors begin to act upon him, the facade of ego and individual identity separates the child from his primal innocent world. And thus he begins to inhabit a divided world full of schisms and turmoil. The context of the relationship of mother and child begins to take on other colors of religion and in this regard, the use of Trishul is synonymous with the Hindu concept of janma sutra

Dilip Tamuly had taken up installation while in Denmark and Spain and then when he returned to Assam in 1990, where his parallel drawings continued and yet his post modern approaches had a mixed reaction, so, for some time, it was like a ball that he had thrown into the void with a wish that it would draw attention, he stood waiting because he knew that the world of art in Assam was not yet ready to receive his bold ideas and methods. In 1990, Dilip Tamuly held his first installation in Guwahati which was a form of public art movement where the artist and the viewer become equal participants and thus they come together on the same platform that is meant to bring better understanding and acceptance of art as a medium of communication. He worked on the natural impulses and psychological bearings of traditional and ritualistic installation which are the integral forms of the native tribal communities of Assam. Later in 1999 at Jorhat he carried on with installation as a successful form of performing art. Here he was also engaged in the street painting for the first time in Assam which received warm response and appreciation in the art circles. In 1999, at the Lalit Kala Akademi sponsored show, he continued this involvement with installation until recent times while his parallel visual art carried on.

‘Identity market’ was a new approach of 20 minutes’ installation play where renowned NSD trained drama person Rabijita Gogoi and Upasana Bora of Fine Arts of Assam performed with Dilip Tamuly. Later this experience led to the growth of a successful experiment as Gatha which was truly an extension of Dilip Tamuly’s concept of the identity market. And thus Gatha began with several workshops on drama that gave training to young artistes on installation and performance art so that these two separate genres and their attributes can be utilized through the use of poetry, social comments and lessons on psychological realism. In these experiments, Dilip Tamuly related his own impression of identity, how it is rigid and yet flexible in some circumstances, which gave a new focus on the use of these concepts in drama. Gatha is not stagnant, it adds new realities. Here, the participants were given spaces to exhibit their individual dramatic reactions to different social issues and situations. This was another extension of his artistic experiments, a crucial part of that period of his intrinsic search for a new medium of expression.

Dilip Tamuly does not believe in acquiring the technique through mere academic studies alone, for him, every phase of an individual’s life is determined by his psyche and an internal urge or necessity when a strange restlessness begins to take over the senses. The search for the true identity becomes part of the non narrative dramatic treatment, it provides new dimensions of drama where he explored ideas like non linear methods on identity without dialogue since he feared that old identity generally gets usurped by the new age explorations. Images of various social symbols of identity with the use of textile, mosquito nets, umbrellas, traditional costumes, semi-abstract music representing inner feelings were aesthetically employed. Small umbrellas represented small identities which are in conflict with larger umbrellas. This is a comment on how consumerism and materialism would overpower human sensibilities. All colours are meant to signify different religious identities. His final submission is that he turns towards the Hindu concept of astitva when a person is said to be truly alive though name and fame become mere clichés of bone and ashes when all identities are preserved finally in an earthen urn.

In 2008, National School of Drama invited Dilip Tamuly to work on stage designing and installation where Robijita Gogoi directed the play. There was a difference between Gatha of 2001 and 2008 – there was now focus on the political exploitation of the local population through betrayal, why vote banks play a vital role in society; all came into play. This was pure drama incorporating installation where the pattern is no more a medium for the director. Gatha was performed in more than 40 shows I all over India. The themes were on the fragments of transition of the Northeast in the last two decades – the social philosophy, psychology, social habits, realities were explored with symbols. In fig 3 the image of a youth who learns to protest through the use of the colour red, he tries to break away though trapped by negative forces . In fig 4, big machine confronts traditional man – a huge structure is seen face to face with a man pulling a cart. These reflect on the contemporary issues that trouble today’s generation. The artist here tries to present an emotional experience in its most compelling moment.

Recently Dilip Tamuly was invited to participate in the production of Memsaab Prithivi where verses, sayings, proverbs and elements of folk theatre inclusive of local music were incorporated. He also participated in the production of the Bengali version of Girish Karnad’s Fire and Rain titled Agni jaal in New Delhi. This was a classical drama treated with post modern methods.

In his own inimical ways, Dilip Tamuly has always remained resourceful which is often outside the purview of those artists who seek only material gain. Art and his life have gone on a parallel journey, his story never ends, he has something to add, nothing is fixed, a little dramatic challenge is welcome to him. And this is why his students are not mere skilled artists, he has opened their inner eye, he has introduced them to the larger world by involving them in workshops, kalamelas, he shares his own concepts on lithography, viscosity which have enabled his students to assimilate his black reality. Dilip Tamuly has always maintained a low profile, always providing avenues for others of his ilk to grow and prosper.

Today Dilip Tamuly has shifted his focus from his inner explorations towards the larger compass of social history, heritage and roots. This to him is a fertile field where he may look for something new in every endeavour, here he is not in one dimension of thought, and he finds now ways to be an artist, a teacher and a social worker rolled into one. He however would not serve any sermon; he would instead portray the dark realities in fragments through which he had set out on his journey of art.

D/ Awadesh Misra

Please note that few photos from the following series of photos are to be published with this article.


2,3, 5, (DRAWING)

P 1, P4 (PRINT)

061231, 154635 (SINGLE INSTALLATION),

15, 16 ( UMBRELLA),

061206, 160613, 160840 ( NSD’S MEMSAHIB PRITHVI),

DSC 9814 ( MACHINE & MAN )

)190045000, 184756000 (FIRE&RAIN:AGNIJAAL)


DSC00816 (BURA)