Brushing aside human angst

- April 6, 2023
| By : Mohd Shehwaaz Khan |

Jogen Chowdhury’s exhibition at Bikaner House presented the artist’s paintings, drawings and archives from 1955 to 2023

A human figure study by Chowdhury done in 1962 with brown pastel

The exhibition by Jogen Chowdhury titled ‘Into The Half Light and Shadow Go I’ was a curatorial idea to explore artist’s attempts to counter signs of human angst in his works. Held at Bikaner House, New Delhi, from March 8 to April 2, it offered insights not only into the artist’s mind but also the wider historical context in which the artist’s oeuvre falls – as he is often considered one of the flag-bearers of Indian modernism.

Although there were not many visitors, the art enthusiasts present were struck by the grandeur of the space. The high ceilings and stark white walls provided the perfect backdrop for the various artworks on display. The visitor walked slowly, taking in each artwork and appreciating the artist’s perspective and emotions.

The narrative of Chowdhury treads the path from pre-partition to post-independent India. His early years were marked by the effects of Partition, from displacement in 1948 from a comfortable homeland to a difficult upbringing in a Kolkata refugee settlement. He worked through the following decades to significantly alter the course of modern art history after overcoming suffering and considerable social change. As his artistic career developed, he was awarded the French Scholarship to study in Paris in 1968 after graduating from the Government Institute of Art and Craft in Kolkata.

“My journey, like many others I suppose, is fraught with challenges of various kinds. I decided quite early in my life that I was not going to give up at any cost. I would not allow any defeatist mentality to creep in. My maxim was to boldly face up to the trials of life and not to collapse under the pressures. This is the message that transpires from my journey,” shares Chowdhury.

Chowdhury’s work conveys a trait in human figures, a kind of drama or a gesture, as he skilfully portrays their shapes and attributes, their essence, their facial expressions standing in repose or lying down. Apart from his abstract works and studies, there were also a number of self-portraits.

“Time and space are the main driving forces that compel me to continue my work as an artist. Circumstances and specific events influence our perception of life at any given point in time. It is these undercurrents of social change that keep me motivated endlessly, embracing natural changes. Besides, my deep interest in visual communication and its artistic nuances keep me engaged in search of a creative expression that can uphold the aesthetic values of life, that is both enduring and reassuring,” he says.

Somak Mitra, director of Gallery Art Exposure, reflects on Chowdhury’s work.

“Jogen Chowdhury brings seminal historical and socio-political factors to light and always includes the perspectives of those from different walks of life. His work is earnest, informed, and deeply stirring.”

Artist Jogen Chowdhury says that his work ‘Reclining Woman’ is one his more romantic and poetic works
A visitor looking at one of the drawings of the artist
The exhibition presented many of artist’s nude studies
Work such as Gulabia Takia (right) was also exhibited with many untitled works
A powerful ensemble of Chowdhury’s self-portraits reflected his artistic growth
Chowdhury gives in his human studies, a kind of trait, gestures and drama
Different renditions of Bakasur