Review by Sarmistha Maiti
April 15, 2014


Formative to Recent
Jogen Chowdhury
February 19-March 29, 2014
CIMA, Kolkata

The journey of an artist seems to be never-ending. There is always a possibility to grow and evolve at every breath of experience in an artist’s life. And a creator in his/her thriving spirit loves to hold back the innocence of life and give birth to something new every moment till the end of the journey of life. At 75, Jogen Chowdhury seems to be in his blooming youth with his evolutionary journey in the field of art and aesthetics. And to keep up to that spirit, saluting this pioneer creator CIMA Gallery of Kolkata has arranged for a retrospective show of exclusive works of JogenChowdhury. The exhibition is a grand visual treat of ‘complete works’ of Jogen Chowdhury that includes paintings, drawings, etchings, lithographs, film posters and so on among which many works being first time exhibited in this show.

This is one of the finest exhibitions of Jogen Chowdhury that has ever been hosted where one could get a wholesome visual treat of the artist’s evolution from a student of the Government College of Art & Craft to an enlightened and enriched practitioner of contemporary art with the backdrop of influences and expressions of both the modernists of the West and the various sectors and forms of Indian art from the classical, traditional to the folk and local forms. Jogen Chowdhury’s artistic journey has touched all the facets of Indian art from the grand pictorial scapes of water colours to the scenic and thematic revelations of the Bengal School to the internal journey of individual practitioners where Jogen Chowdhury found and settled his identity as the master of lines and figurative darkness and anger through his portraitures.

Jogen Chowdhury’s works are a blend of agony and ecstasy. With distortion of lines when on one hand he could be identified to be close to the traditional embroidery/designs on floor and walls generally referred as ‘alpanas’ in Bengali and the traditional pata-chitra, subject-wise his visual language of exposition through human limbs and organs with their extreme depictions became more copious, refined and meaningful. The artist is one such visionary that he expressed the nuances of human feelings and emotions and their subtle ups and downs in the daily experiences through such disjointed and distorted lines and strokes. The linear journey of life is in fact the non-linier experiences of living and being is the crux of Jogen Chowdhury’s philosophy and the essence of his works which come in a row of complete works in this exhibition, “Formative to Recent”. 

The surreal impact in Jogen Chowdhury’s works which has been thoroughly deciphered in this exhibition is perhaps the artist’s another unique signature. The caricatures, the human organs, the pot-bellied leaders in gigantic forms are a direct critique of the political system of the country and representative of the societal structure’s dilapidation which Jogen Chowdhury has been creating for the last three decades in various ways and formal dynamics. The woman undraped on her bed with her bare back on the foreground, the flower-umbrella in gigantic form on a woman  and so on are Jogen Chowdhury’s unique markers that make him the artist of his stature. This exhibition brings together the series of ‘eros’ and ‘thanatos’ reflecting in his works. And at the same time the sense of terror, horror, beauty and violence- all blended together has also got primary focus in his works showcased in this exhibition.

With the passage of time, JogenChowdhury has become much simpler in the execution of his lines but the voice of an artist has become much stronger with maturity and experience. Thus he can directly pen his thoughts on paper without any layout and give birth to his unique creations symbolic of an age marking his proficiency as a pioneer of contemporary Indian Art as a living legend who loves to grow every moment.