An exhibition of French artist Servières’s work on the City of Joy

Heritage through a ballad of sketches


May 1, 2019

/ By Mahasweta Das / Kolkata


The ongoing exhibition “Ballade Au Crayon Noir: Where Heritage Meets Life” by French artist Jacques Servières celebrates heritage of Calcutta and French colonial Chandernagore through his sketches.

The Alliance Française du Bengale is hosting the exhibition Ballade Au Crayon Noir: Where Heritage Meets Life by Jacques Servières in collaboration with the Consulate General of France in Calcutta, with the support of French Institute in India.

After a month long residency progamme in Kolkata throughout February, the 65 year old French illustrator-sculptor has showcased through his work the eccentric aspects of the City of Joy and French colonial heritage, Chandernagore. The exhibition was preceded by the launch of a book called Calcutta Sketches which is a compilation of Jacques’s sketches.

The self-taught artist is known for his open air sculpture garden on the banks of river Marne in France. At the age of 30, he started constructing the sculptures from limestone he collected from the remains of a bridge that was blown up by the Germans in Second World War. Since then he has moved on to painting and sketching. “A small fisherman’s stool, a fine pen and a large sketchbook- that’s all I need to discover this ‘Incredible India’. These three elements are essential to translate my emotions onto this sheet of white Canson in the different environments,” says the artist. He has been to Puducherry, Kathmandu, Goa, Chandigarh and Trivandrum before Kolkata and captured them through his sketches too.


Various sketches displaying the essence of City of Joy

The sketches in the exhibition are his interpretation of life and heritage in Calcutta and Chandernagore. He believes that it is not only the old monuments which preserve heritage but also the continuing rituals, culture and even things like the yellow taxis and rickshaws, which have been in existence for long. His subjects represent all aspects of everyday life and range from the gardener, the maintenance staff to the teachers in their classes, the people in the cafès. He captures the images of monuments, a church, a taxi and even animals with similar ease.

The event took place at The Zs’ Precinct, a gallery located at a heritage building in Dover Lane in south Kolkata. The venue of the exhibition also adds to the thematic subject of the sketches, as The Zs’ Precinct is one of the first restoration projects of Calcutta Architectural Legacies (CAL), a group working for the preservation of the city’s unique residential buildings. The curator-creator of the gallery, Rajesh Sen also believes in the artist’s idea as it is synonymous to the idea behind his gallery. “It is not only a old building, it is what you did and how you lived in times before and are still living in the same way now. It is what is heritage…what you had and are still using it the same way,” says Sen while talking to Media India Group.

The exhibition is open for public till May 31, 2019 at The Zs’ Precinct art gallery.

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