Born in Calcutta to an artistic family (with a well-known artist-teacher for a father), Prokash Karmakar learnt painting at his father’s atelier until the socio-political turmoil of the Forties put an end to it. On completing his matriculation, Karmakar joined the Government College of Art, Calcutta, but was forced to quit out of poverty. He joined the army subsequently to abscond after two years, not giving up his urge for painting. He learnt the techniques of transparent and opaque water colours from Kamalaranjan Thakur, a former student of his father, and from Dilip Das Gupta. However, Nirode Mazumdar was highly influential in acquainting Karmakar with artistic and philosophical concepts, techniques, forms, coherence of lines and breaking the forms. Karmakar’s artistic career began in the early Fifties with his first exhibition held in 1959 on the railings of Indian Museum, Calcutta.
Karmakar’s art stems from a contemplation of life, reflected through the prism of personal traumatic experiences intermingled with the darker moments of history. In 1969-70, Karmakar visited France on a fellowship to study art museums. The exposure was inspiring for the expressionist artist, who being ‘primarily a colourist’, began in the Seventies to create his figurative paintings in monochrome.
Karmakar has won many prestigious awards – the Lalit Kala Akademi National Award, 1968, Rabindra Bharati University Award, 1970, Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Calcutta, 1976, AIFACS Award, 1996, and the Abanindra Puroskar by government of West Bengal, 2000. Karmakar has held numerous solo shows and his paintings are in private and public collections throughout the world.