Shyamal Mukherjee is an artist who has spent his entire life in Calcutta, only venturing out to attend showings of his works, and only speaking in Bengali. He was born there in 1961, and spent all of his college years in Santiniketan, first completing his BFA in 1987, and then his MFA in 1989 from the Rabindra Bharati University.
In Mukherjee's work, we see the Bengal School strong figurative tradition being carried ahead and interpreted in a very contemporary idiom. Mukherjee says he loves to travel alone in new places on buses and trains since, "Most of my inspiration comes from observing people." It's not surprising that every figure in his body of works has a separate and interesting story to tell. Most of the people Mukherjee paints are performers of some type, putting on an act for everyone else - something all of us do everyday of our lives. Mukherjee's figures are dressed in the bright, almost gaudy orange, red and green costumes that street performers wear, but their eyes are gazing and drawn, their faces almost cartoon like and their fingers podgy, making the irony and pathos that surrounds them extremely evident. For one of his recent shows in Mumbai, the artist decided to use beggars and street vendors as the subject of his works, essaying their pitiable condition in his trademark style.
The artist also likes to focus on the fact that each individual has a great deal in common with every other one. This is why he paints people in pairs or larger groups, highlighting that though they are physically separate and unlike each other, there is no real difference between their characters and behaviours.
Mukherjee's favourite medium is reverse oil or acrylic painting on transparent acrylic sheets, and he swears that although he may change his themes and subjects, inventing new ones for new shows, he will never give up painting in this medium. Although Mukherjee loves to paint, he says he has many other hobbies. He teaches children in his spare time, and says that he learns more from them than they realize. He also collects rural artworks and the crafts of Bengali artisans.