What She Does Piyali Sen Dasgupta is a mixed-media visual artist who uses everything from egg tempura, stamps and silk to paper, crayon, charcoal and more in her paintings, wood blocks and scarves. She got her start in lithography printmaking and silk-screening before moving to painting with egg tempura on rice paper. Though she works in many forms now, she said it wasn't always that way.
"I was a purist. Now I want to get into a space where I can use everything. The main idea is to express myself. I don't care about anything else," she said.
Why She Likes It "I do not know any other way. Call it a living, call it an obsession. I started painting when I was four years old. As anyone does, my mother gave me a box of colored pencils and showed me what drawing was." Dasgupta, who was born in Assam, India, said her father and uncle liked to draw, and her aunt was a painter.
What Inspires Her Dasgupta said other people with a passion for creativity inspire her.
"Even watching someone deeply contemplative, to the point that I feel immediately I need to express myself."
Music and nature also move her.
"They give me that high. I have spent a lot of time gardening, but it has to be with my artwork. Always side by side."
Dasgupta grew up on a tea plantation, and though her work has always been organic in tone, recently she's taken much inspiration from her garden. One abstract painting of a turmeric bulb, common in Indian cooking, showed the plant's stalk being coaxed out of the earth by a family of light, sunshine and other plants, Dasgupta explained. Several raw-silk scarves also featured a turmeric bulb motif, created by a wooden block stamp hand-carved in India.
"Wood is living," she said, just like the rice paper she originally started painting with was once a living thing as well. Same with egg tempura, the classical method of mixing tempura paint. "Everything. Everything is connected," she said.
If Not This, Then What? "It wouldn't be that way," she said.
Though she turns 60 in April, she said she has not lost an ounce of the passion for art she had as a child. She's still making mental lists of the things she wants to try.
"Now I'm thinking, I hope I have enough time to do it all."
If Not Here, Where? Dasgupta, who first moved to Texas from India in 1980, said her location is dependent on her husband's job. She's always seen herself in Texas, but if not Houston, maybe Austin.
She doesn't normally do art shows. Instead, she prefers to open the doors to her studio, No. 33 at Winter Street, so people can see her working space and how things are made. Sure enough, in the middle of this interview, two women who were visiting Houston for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference wandered in. One purchased a stamped scarf.
"If someone would like to see my work, this is the best place." she said. "You can see the surfaces the artist is trying to show."
What's Next "I am going to paint and going to do my art," she said. "I don't want anything else."
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