Born on 8 October 1926, in Faridpur (in present day Bangladesh), Biren De shifted to Calcutta with his family before Partition and studied at the Government College of Arts and Crafts.
Later, De moved to New Delhi to teach at College of Art. Years spent in New York and extensive travelling over continents subsequently enriched his artistic expression with new forms.
From 1956 onward, his figurative compositions began to fragment, turning into free shapes. Around this time, De, along with some of his contemporaries, drew away from the styles of their predecessors, urging the peer group to initiate an individual vantage based on inner experiences. De’s imagery began evoking a metaphysical introspection through recurrent symbols of the lotus, the sun, the wheel, and bursting seeds. His paintings captured the implosion of energy devoid of any agitated movement, only a blinding effulgence at its heart. Experimenting with tantric art, he sought to express the physical union of man and woman through abstracted symbols: a ‘u’-like form representing the female principle and the straight and wedge-like shape representing the male.
The artist oscillated between deep blues and blazing reds, his final aim being the awakening of the psyche towards an undivided consciousness. Averse to the ‘hard edge’ abstraction of the West, De’s fluid and suggestive geometry was about dispersion, diffusion and dematerialisation. His works Apparition and Dying Ogre won the Lalit Kala Akademi’s national awards. A Fulbright fellow, De painted many commissioned portraits. He passed away on 12 March 2011.
‘I am an agnostic… I don’t talk about these [tantric] things, but I know about energy’
The ‘Manifestations’ series of 20th Century Indian Art, Editions V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI
DAG, New Delhi and Mumbai, 2011-14
‘The Art of Bengal’
DAG, New Delhi, 2012; Mumbai, 2014; New York, 2016
‘Indian Abstracts: An Absence of Form’
DAG, New Delhi, Mumbai, New York, 2014-15
‘India Modern: Narratives from 20th Century Indian Art’
DAG, New York, New Delhi, Mumbai, 2015; Chandigarh, 2017
'Tantra on the Edge: Inspirations and Experiments in Twentieth-Century Indian Art'