Ink, pastel and mixed media on paper
19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in. (50 x 70 cm.)
Signed, dated and inscribed 'Jogen 1999 Santiniketan' lower left, further signed and dated in Bengali lower right, further inscribed in Bengali upper right and inscribed '13 Couple II / 50 X 70 cms / Ink & Pastels and / mixed media / 1999 / Jogen Chowdhury' on reverse
Jogen Chowdhury Enigmatic Visions, Himeji, 2005, p. 113, illustrated.
The Glenbarra collection of works by Jogen Chowdhury is probably the largest collection of the artist's works held in private hands. The works in the Collection trace the development of the artist's works from early academic drawings and the first cross-hatch works of the 1970s, all the way to the present day. The recently concluded multi-city show in India, allowed collectors the opportunity to compare works and trace the developments of Jogen's works so as to better understand how certain themes and subjects have evolved over the last five decades. The sensitivity of his line, the intricate nature of his technique, and his ability to create small-format paper works with their meticulous detail and large canvases with bold and lyrical lines, is what makes his body of work a wonderful study in contrasts. Interestingly, Jogen's art evoked childhood memories for the collector which he discusses in the introductory essay.
'Jogen Chowdhury has developed a highly original idiom which allows him to explore a private world of real and imaginary beings, of dreams, fantasies, childhood recollections, as well as objects and people he sees in his environment. Working in ink and pastel he builds up his images in a fastidious process of cross-hatching, allowing a mild tint of colour gradually to seep in. This gives his images a dull, pellucid sheen, which is emphasised by the dark background against which they are set.' (Deepak Ananth, 'An Engagement with Reality', India Myth and Reality Aspects of Modern Indian Art, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1982, p. 58)
Although the artist's technique of cross-hatching has remained largely consistent throughout his career, his compositions encompass a wide range of themes and moods. In his early dream paintings, there is a surrealist element to his forms. 'He has as it were, tried to plumb the depths of an abundantly fecund unconscious, coming up with images at once fantastic, archetypal and visually poetic. The familiar stuff of dreams; snakes, fish, fruit, flowers hand, breast, appear in a soft welter of forms, curiously afloat or held in limbo, evoking associations which are erotic in a most tender, mellow way.' (ibid.)
From the 1980s onwards, Jogen began to focus more on the human form and human interaction at a personal level. The figures themselves are infused with a slightly distorted quality, bordering on the grotesque, an element that reflects his opinion of the privileged classes and business community he witnessed around him. The dynamics of a couple, in particular, is something that he still remains fascinated with, using it as an avenue to constantly explore and understand the nature of human relationships, fraught with emotional dramas and influenced by the external social pressures of a typical Indian middle-class society.
The couples that he chooses to represent either have a strong emotional connection, or in many cases, appear to share no bond; bonded together only by the banal existence that they both appear to be trapped in. 'The men are older and frailer. But essentially, it is not age of well-being that separates them, it is substance. The women are sensual, have more presence, more virility without being exactly man-eaters or femme fatales. The men manifest fate, women express character. One is hemmed in by circumstance, the other is powered by will. Addressing each other and yet sealed within themselves, they keep life's theatre going.' (R. Siva Kumar, 'Jogen Chowdhury: Lyric and Enigmatic Visions', Jogen Chowdhury Enigmatic Visions, Himeji, 2005, p. 11)
The women in the two works included in the current catalogue (see the following lot as well), embody some of these traits, yet could not be more different in the way they are represented. The woman in Couple II is deeply sensual; her voluptuous sari-clad figure crowned with thick, curling tresses and adorned with heavy jewellery. She poses for her male suitor, who appears to gaze at her with open admiration, creating a palpable tension in the empty space between the two figures. So much in the painting is left unsaid, replete with complex psychological dimensions that remain unexplained to the viewer. 'Mental re-enactments make the gesticulations and the juxtapositions of bodies more loaded, but also cause the images to waver between message and hieroglyph, narration and symbolism. It makes the images more complex, also more tantalising. Meaning rustles through the characters and situations, creating ripples, but passing by without settling into a narrative.' (ibid.)
In contrast, the woman in the earlier work from 1988 is already typified for us in the title of the work, Man and the Old Lady. She is an older lady shown sitting on a printed throw, a bare-chested man sitting on the floor by her side. Their relationship is undefined but is in the harsh glare of society, emphasised by the overly bright, clashing colours the artist has used for the background, the throw and the woman's blouse.
'The dramas of domestic life have always been an area of interest to me. I find it amusing to observe relationships between man and man, husband and wife, between children. Behind the public image... it is the intimate private life which ultimately controls him. It is all these observations that have surfaced in my work.' (Jogen Chowdhury, 'An Artist's Thoughts', ibid., p. 92)
# Import duty at 11% will be charged on the hammer price and GST will be applicable on the total amount of the hammer price plus the import duty.
About The Artist:
JOGEN CHOWDHURY (b. 1939)