Kishor Kumar Das : Satire in art

An article by Rupanjali Baruah

Art as the essential showing of reality, shows reality in its humor. Some works of art make us through the use of satire to ponder over social conditions. Satire in art has a critical language at its core to be used sparingly with a social intent. It shows flaws in the social fabric, institutions, political leaders and so on. Such a satirist shows the passageway to improve and save the world through indemnity. At the heart of satire, there is not the mere will to reform but to show or uphold human condition, to mirror the truth – they are stories where we readily see reflections of what is going on around us. Such an artist is like one carrying a surgical kit to remove the ills ailing a society. And there is also the play of absurdity in satire; the self-deceptive, hypocritical, unjust practices are shown in obverse ways that tickle and teach and exposes how the false, myopic or self-invented systems are open for condemnation and their somewhat redemption. The tools at disposal are satire, irony, sarcasm, hyperbole.

In such satirical visual art, the artist is seen as an observer who takes his standpoint from a distance, recording all intimate details to convey his message. The malice that we see here is not of the severe kind, rather a delicious one that is to be savored readily with a mild relish. There is in them an underlying social commentary that are meant to delight as well as educate us on various social issues like climate change, urban living, natural disasters, social stigmas.

Kishor Kumar Das explores through his artwork the balance between socio-political commentary and satire. Drawing inspiration from his social milieu, he poses realistic postures of real people interacting with exaggerated situations, and challenges to see themselves in relationship with life-situations and thereby searches for satire in every detailed observation. He sees people in various encounters that trigger contemplation and participation in the viewer. He builds his images like a conceptual grid, layer upon layer, to make his tacit comments on myriad issues.

Though each image is a complex play of ideas with multiple layered thoughts both in terms of image and context, Kishor Kumar Das makes use of his own intuitive senses and its relevance that result in gritty, emotive and no nonsense display of human conditions. There is the underlying universality of his message that makes his comments on the follies of today affect all sensibilities with quick, economical precision. His graphic details of satire are like an arsenal to hit human consciousness.

The artist is seen to use exaggeration to highlight a point of view with the use of his aesthetic tools of line, color, shape, form. Some are scathing remarks on social taboos that verge on that which make his satire go beyond the mere political lampoonery. For instance, by using the inverse combination of a bird and an instrument of sound, a trumpet, he comments on the common human condition of wake-up call in the most amusing way. The bird here seems to maintain clarity of intent in its personality, covering an attribute of noise pollution because such extremes in nature make it easy for the artist to mock them blatantly without malice. Some are wickedly funny and distorted where many amusing anecdotes are juxtaposed against a common thing. In ‘River also sings’ the river blowing a trumpet is a case in point. These visual sallies indicate that nothing can escape from the scrutiny of the gimlet’s eye as we see how deftly Kishor Kumar Das uses the sling to save a live branch from breaking a limb that has the skeletal structure of a human anatomy hidden within. The camel carrying a whole city is in itself a loud statement of what has become of urban living.

The social burden that the artist has been carrying on his back and ultimately the canvas takes over to showcase the same to the world. The only redeeming fact is that the artist is clear-sighted to tell us the bitter truth of it all, the degradation of human values, and the way out of it.

His art demonstrates the human spectacle in all its derision and distortions and therein is the punch-line of his satire in art. Kishor Kumar Das reveals the fracture in social structure and it is for the viewer to pick up these lessons for now and for posterity.