July 19th, 2017
There are times when you meet an artist who literally blows you away – when you’re watching them paint and they do something that’s so special it has a profound effect on the room. Current World Bodypainting Champion in the Brush and Sponge category Sanatan Dinda is that artist. Observing him during his demo at the recent Kryolan Masterclass, the audience knew it was in the presence of a master, that the way he approached his work was something a bit special. The first Indian artist to display work in Buckingham Palace, we caught up with Sanatan after his class.
WP: What is your background and where did you grow up?
SD: I was born in the Kumartully area of Kolkata in India which is traditionally an area where idol makers live. Though I was from a poor background, my aim was to reach the level of an artist; I never wanted to become anything else, although I also am very passionate about music. I started earning my living when I was only in Standard 7 (12 years old) and grew up with five older sisters. I had the sense that I had to do something to support my family. Somehow I passed my standard 10 exam and joined the Government College of Art and Craft in Kolkata.
WP: Were you a creative child? Where did you study?
SD: I don’t remember when I started to do the clay idols, I was too young to remember that. I found my way of earning an income by doing that so many things, it’s a long list. I studied in a corporation school, but I was much more interested in storybooks and started reading Tagore, Manik Banerjee, Jibananda Das, Maxim Gorky, Dostoevsky, Maupassant’s selected poems and Nikolai Ostrovsky in Standard 7. They helped me to build up myself and I could clearly see what I was going through is not struggle, it was the way of my life.
WP: You’re first and foremost an artist – what brought you to bodypainting and how long have you been doing it?
SD: Well I have been doing this for last four years. Actually, when I started I did costume design with some design on body to compliment the costume. The show was against rape and to build awareness. It was a hit with the public yet I was not satisfied and after that we started to look where we can get a better chance to perform and we saw World Body Painting Festival.
WP: Tell us about the body painting scene in India. Have you been competing for a long time? What influenced you to enter the WBF?
SD: I don’t see anyone else bodypainting like this in India.
WP: For your winning paint, you depicted Global Warming. Do you draw your inspiration from nature?
SD: Not exactly. We search and research on the recent issues and problems going on around the world; every now and then I always wanted to speak up about these issues. I got a very good chance last year because of the themes they had given. I choose to speak up about the things which were very sensitive and important for people to speak about.
WP: Your work features many people and faces – notoriously difficult things to paint. Do they have significance in your work?
SD: It’s not only faces but the expressions, I don’t like to put only faces.
WP: I notice that you use a print as reference. Are your designs created first on canvas?
SD: No, I take reference from different sources which match my subject and according to the light source of my whole painting.
WP: Who were your early influences? Whose work do you admire?
SD: It’s a long list again. I copied a lot of old European masters in my childhood. I admire Picasso, Dali to Tania Brugera, Barbara Kruger, Kiki Smith. I also get my inspiration from film and literature.
WP: What’s been the most challenging commission and how did you overcome this?
SD: It’s a challenge to survive in the world around us which is taking a violent shape. Nothing is more important right now.
WP: What advice would you give a young artist?
SD: Read and keep your senses open.
WP: What’s next for you?
SD: It’s a crisis period for human being to survive and I always wanted to speak up about that. I am doing that and trying to find more my ways into that.