PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT BENGALI FAMILY
Ink and pastel on paper
22 x 28 1/4 in. (55 x 71.9 cm.)
Signed and dated in Bengali upper right and further dated and signed '93 JOGEN' lower centre
Trends and Images, CIMA, Kolkata, 20 November - 12 December, 1993.
Trends and Images, exhibition catalogue, CIMA, Kolkata, 20 November - 12 December, illustrated.
Jogen Chowdhury is best known for his small format works executed in a combination of ink, pastel and watercolour using a distinctive crosshatching style that he developed in the early 1970s. The tight network of intersecting lines are usually set against a deep, black background, thereby increasing the overall visual impact.
'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, 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 that slowly evolves into a fascination for the grotesque. '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.)
In his later works, 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. In the current painting, his characters share a small, intimate space, but appear to lack any emotional connection. The bird, with its brilliant, mosaic-like wings seems the most interested in the contortions of the central figure, while the two women look on indifferently.
His scenes present an entire range of social classes, but are set in strange scenarios, replete with complex psychological dimensions that remain unexplained to the viewer. In his best works, a quiet tension seems to hang in the void between his characters. '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.' (Siva Kumar,Jogen Chowdhury Enigmatic Visions, Japan, 2005, p. 11)
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About The Artist:
JOGEN CHOWDHURY (b. 1939)