“Will Sen agree to paint the Renault Kwid as an art car?” wrote Patrick Lecharpy, the Design Director of Renault in Paris on receiving news of Sen’s forthcoming solo exhibition at the French artists’ village of Barbizon, 50km south of Paris in December 2016. 

Renault’s Chennai Design studio of 2000 sq metre with 8 metre height was emptied of other work-in-progress cars to pave the way of the art car painting project. Instructions were given that the artist should be able to access the car at any time, day or night, to paint without distraction and without time restriction. Renault provided the facility of a floor hydraulic jack below the car which allowed the artist to both lift and rotate the car easily when required. A chair was put on another huge jack that could lift the artist to paint the top of the car with his brushes that were tied to elongated wooden sticks. 

Painting in 3 dimensional surface was a totally new adventure for Sen. In three one-week-long trips from Bangalore to Chennai, Sen finished painting the art car. 

Ever since he had left India in 1973, Sen had never painted an Indian subject. But in this Kwid art car, his childhood experience in West Bengal came tumbling out in visible expression. If you spend some time surrounding the car, observing it closely, you will find hidden figuratives in the abstract context. You may find the Chandannagar church, Kolkata metropolitan building, Howrah bridge in the backdrop. You can even find a decorated cow in the bonnet, a pig at the back, a goat near a seller of coloured drinks on the side with a girl in a scooter. On the other side, a garland selling man is near a girl making a monkey do tricks, while the top seems to be filled with wires that one sees hanging between Kolkata street lights. 

For the artist, these describe the haphazard but positive colourful collage of life in India.

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When India was partitioned 1947 to create Pakistan, a new country for Muslims, about 20 million people of Bengal and Punjab were displaced and brutally victimized. Sen’s wealthy, literate family had huge landed property in erstwhile East Bengal, the present Bangladesh, which was carved out to be East Pakistan for Muslims. So for being Hindus Sen’s family was overnight evicted from their home. Without taking any possessions, they fled for their lives amidst people warring over religion, and so became squatted refugees in West Bengal.