Born in 1980, Anwar Chitrakar is a patua artist who was trained in the 19th century Kalighat style of painting by his father Amar Chitrakar. In West Bengal, small communities of patuas or village artists create long vertical paintings, illustrating stories of Krishna, Rama, and other Indian gods and mythological figures. Scene after scene gets unfolded as the scroll is gradually unwound. Such scrolls are not made for the purpose of selling, but instead, to equip the artists in their role of a wandering minstrel. Patuas go from village to village, gathering an audience around them, displaying their scrolls and reciting their contents.
Unlike the other patua artists in his village, Anwar Chitrakar took up painting as a profession much later, when he was twenty years old. Before that, he worked as a tailor in his village, as there was little commercial prospect for folk painters in Bengal. Since he started his career as a painter relatively late, Anwar felt he needed to do something new or different. And hence, he has evolved into a more individualistic artist, blending tradition with modernity in innovative ways in his artistic practice. He creates natural colours in keeping with the Patua tradition. For instance, turmeric and marigold are used to create yellow, black is taken from the ink of kerosene lamps. On the other hand, he is also adopting contemporary practices from the world of art, and is one of the few patua artists who signs his paintings. While Anwar still paints on the traditional cloth-paper scroll, he also uses more contemporary mediums like canvas, British paper, and Italian paper. Traditional myths and stories form the basis of Anwar’s work. He strolls around his village, listening to what people have to say. His art depicts stories from their conversations, with a pinch of satire often added in.
Anwar Chitrakar has participated in several exhibitions both in India and abroad, such as the Berlin Festival 2012, Namaste India Festival Japan 2012, Devi Art Foundation’s “Vernacular in the Contemporary”, and others. His paintings are part of the collection at the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Mumbai International Airport, and many important private collections. Anwar Chitrakar won the West Bengal State Award in 2002, the National Award in 2006 and the President’s Award amongst others. The artist resides and works in his village in West Bengal.