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Modern & Contemporary Indian Art Modern & Contemporary Indian Art JOGEN CHOWDHURY (B. 1939)
JOGEN CHOWDHURY (B. 1939)
ASN0020 Auction Type: Online
Dry pastel on paper
Signed & dated 2005 in Bengali at the top left & inscribed Shantiniketan; dated 18.03.2005 on the right side; also signed & dates in English at the bottom with initials in Bengali; titled in English top centre
Dimension: 29.5 x 84.6 in
£42,400 - £53,000
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CIMA Gallery, Kolkata
"Again and again, drawings of violence and the seamy side of human nature emerge. In a series of works from 2005 that reference the Abu Ghraib prison and the horrendous abuse of prisoners by American soldiers in Iraq, Chowdhury depicts prone, defenceless men with bodies filled with cuts and marks of cruelty. Through his unique burlesque figurations, Chowdhury explores the deplorable aspects of human nature that have been central to his work from the beginning" (in an article for Live Mint by Bansie Vasvani on 5th May 2016).
In this 2005 dry pastel on paper work painted in Shantiniketan, titled Abu Ghraib, Chowdhury interrogates the torture and cruelties that were apparently visited upon prisoners in Iraq by American soldiers. In the years 2005 and 2006 tension filled the narrative between the USA and Iraq. In 2006, the Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein was executed. However, in the years leading up to this, torture was visited upon Iraqi soldiers by American troops in Abu Gharib, in an act of so-called retribution for Hussein's own torture of his people; the troops were roundly criticized for this. This is interesting to note given parallels to other tortures that were wreaked on people during the Partition that Chowdhury witnessed. It may not be incautious to purport that the artist was triggered by the violence in Abu Ghraib and poured his pain onto canvas. The artist has demonstrated a sensitivity to these matters time and again, which becomes clear in this work.
The figure is supine on the floor, the arms at extreme and odd angles which only serve to underscore the sense of pain, humiliation and brokenness that fills the painting. This is a fine example of the figurative art that he is a master of. It is also noteworthy that this particular work, while it has the distinctive unbroken lines he is known for, does not overtly feature the characteristic crosshatch detailing that he is so reputed for, making it stand out among his oeuvre.
"My work has always had that social connection. I have also believed that even through a simple image one can convey many things. I find the need to not only try to create and narrate visual stories but also to comment on power structures, politics, sexuality and humanity at large"
- Jogen Chowdhury (from an interview on 8th May 2016 to the Deccan Herald)
Jogen Chowdhury is one of the foremost contemporary artists in India, a peerless draftsman. Hailing from Bengal, he takes inspiration from Bengali folk art, pat paintings, the treasures of the natural world. His works are rooted in tradition, but his deft hand endows them with modernity, often imbuing them with a starkness. His subjects are often filled with a palpable tension, as in this image. This might be due to his intimacy with the horrors of Partition, which had cast his family out, so they had to live in a refugee colony in Kolkata.
While Chowdhury was born in what is now Bangladesh and would see much poverty and pain growing up, he would eventually study at the Beaux Arts in Paris. However, during his early years there were problems of lack and the family did not even have electricity at home. He witnessed the communal riots in West Bengal and he has admitted to still carrying those powerful memories.
"Living in Calcutta those days affected not only our immediate physical condition but also our thought processes and the works we made later. Even today, some of those memories haunt me and get reflected in my work"
- Jogen Chowdhury (in an interview to Deccan Herald, 8th May 2016).