Shreya Mondal has great admiration for the paintings created by Bengal master Jamini Roy. So when the Class XII student entered the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) Mask-a-thon, an all-India competition that encouraged children to use the mask as a canvas, she did not think twice before using one of his artworks as inspiration. Roy, one of India’s nine masters, as declared by the Ministry of Culture, was active during the freedom movement and after.
“My work highlights the culture of rural Bengal,” says Mondal, who studies in Tarasundoori Balika Vidyabhaba in Balitikuri, Howrah, Bengal. She says it took six days to complete the piece that mirrors the features of Roy’s images of Santhals: wide eyes and a broad forehead. She contemporises the women with masks, at once giving out a message and making COVID-19 a part of art history. Masks bearing her image will soon be produced by KNMA.
Contesting against students from across the country gave her goosebumps, and she didn’t realise she was pitted against over 6,000 others, in her 11 to 18 year age group. “Since this was an online competition, I felt nervous. I had never done anything like this before. It felt as if I was sitting for my Board exams,” she says. Abirub Das, her cousin who had shared the link of the contest with her, had the honour of announcing her win to the family.
Mondal enjoys drawing faces — whether of her neighbours, of people in school, or of photographs she sees in newspapers and magazines. “I feel the message that wearing a mask is mandatory is communicated through my work. This is the only way we can keep this virus at bay.” Here, she tell us about the artwork.
Tell us how the painting was created from the first sketch to the last.
At first it was drawn on A4 size paper. Then, I put fabric colour on paper, outlining the design with a black border. The shortage of colours made things difficult, as the market in our neighbourhood was closed due to the lockdown. I had to work with what I had: green, yellow ochre, cobalt blue.
How did you decide to show the pandemic in your work?
I discussed a couple of ideas with my parents and decided on what I wanted to create. I wanted to capture simplicity, Indian culture and the pandemic situation through my work. My parents helped me to select the subject.
What is your dream?
To be a full-fledged artist. Once the lockdown is lifted, I will buy material to bring alive my inner feelings of the lockdown.
Anvesha Jha, the runners-up
Anvesha Jha, Class X student, a student of Bharat Ram Global School, Greater Noida, who won the second prize, says the pandemic is scary as it has forced everyone to stay indoors. “I first made sketches of virus cartoons. Then I made green leaves and designs as the colour depicts environment. I labelled the design with terms that help us to fight this deadly virus.” The third prize went to Premlata Chouhan from Azamgarh. In the junior (under 11) category, Avani Kansal from Panipat, Haryana, got the first prize; Adona Mary Martin from New Delhi stood second; and Drithi from Udupi, Karnataka, won third place.