Friday, May 17, 2013

Jogen Chowdhury, Nirbhaya Show, Paribartan Mohanty and more


Untold Stories of Rural India - Solo show by Ravi Kattakuri

(work by Ravi Kattakuri)

The Gallery, New Delhi presents a solo show of art works by artist Ravi Kattakuri. The show is titled, ‘Untold Stories’ and the artworks are rendered primarily in acrylics on canvas. The works in the show depict the artist’s migration from a small village and his adaptation to urban life.

His work is vibrant in colour and the figurative style borders on new age Madhubani. Drawing inspirations from the traditional art, Ravi places the protagonists in his paintings, mostly women in various rural scenarios. His childhood spent in the village influences his work immensely. His experiences of watching people work in fields for their livelihood helps him paint their perseverance, which gets amply depicted in the works.

The doll like faces mask the seriousness of the subject explored on the canvases of Ravi as he insists on bringing out beauty in the most adverse of situations.

 The show is on till the 30th of June 2013.

The Last Lecture Series - A Photo-cultural Event

 The Big Bang Bar and CafĂ© and Better Photography present ‘The Last Lecture’ series, a photo-cultural event. The lecture series, a two part event is being conducted by hosts, Amit Ashar and Amit Madhesiya , who are both photographers and display a penchant for teaching photography to newcomers and amateurs.

First part of the program is conducted by Amit Ashar who will discus the instances in ones personal photographic journey, in his lecture ‘ An Eyeopener: Discovering a way of seeing’

The second part of the event sees Amit Madhesiya explore some of the iconic images of our times by other established photography artists in a lecture called, Looking at Iconic Images -  a Cautionary Tale’. Both the sessions aim to raise and address questions of visual culture and how one looks at images also what guides perception and truth of understanding it.

The lecture will take place on the 19th of May 2013 between 4 30:pm and 7: 30 pm.

 Ideas of the Sublime - a contemporary outlook

(work by Paribartan Mohanty)

In view of the ongoing celebrations of Vadehra Art Gallery’s 25th anniversary celebrations, a show of works by eminent contemporary artists of the country is on view. The show titled, ‘Ideas of the Sublime’, is on view till the 30th of May 2013.

The show is an attempt to restore what is aesthetically perceived as art and to bring it back in a visually stimulating form. From Greek philosophy to digital  technology, the return to the sublime has been more visible over the years. Focusing on art as a primarily human experience and trying to evoke a response more than just a reaction, this show displays works which are derivatives of concepts culled from religion to nature, from romantic literature to ironies of urban living and terrorism, which eventually redefine the concept of the sublime. The works are presented in a variety of mediums from paintings and drawings to collages, digital and video works.

The show displays works of eminent artists Rina Banerjee, Rameshwar Broota, Anju Dodiya, Atul dodiya, Anita Dube, Tushar Joag, Ranbir Kaleka, Jitish Kallat, Paribartana Mohanty, Akshay Rathore, Ravinder Reddy, Nataraj Sharma, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Arpita Singh, Vivan Sundaram, Neha Thakkar, Gipin Varghese.

Nirbhaya -  A Fearless Show

‘Nirbhaya’ a solo show of oil and acrylics on canvas works by the artist, N Swarnalatha is to open at the Open Palm Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. The show pays homage to all the women martyrs who’s lives have been examples of women’s resilience and endurance.

Women like Nirbhaya, Vinothini, Vidhya, are the inspirations for the artworks in this series, which focuses on women’s bravery and self esteem. It also addresses issues about women and literacy in rural areas and other parts of the world where women’s education is considered taboo.

The sensitive and emphatic show asks questions and justice from the governing authorities towards respect and protection for women with the medium of Art. The show is on view from the 19th of May to 24th of May 2013.

(News Reports by Sushma Sabnis)


Jogen Chowdhury’s Retrospective : Figures, Objects, Darkness and Sexuality

At Nandan Art Gallery, Kolkata, a comprehensive retrospective of Jogen Chowdhury’s works is currently on. Young art writer, Siddharth Sivakumar catches up with the artist while going through the works eyes wide open. 

(Jogen Chowdhury)

Living in Santiniketan, once in a while I had the good fortune of coming across Jogen Chowdhury’s paintings. For all his admirers and art enthusiasts, who have for long desired to see his opus, the recent retrospective, organized at Nandan art gallery, Santiniketan presented a new perspective into his art. The exhibition brought together a rich oeuvre of paintings and drawings, from Jogen-da’s personal collection, covering his artistic journey hitherto. Although some of his land-mark paintings were missing, the retrospective revealed a remarkable range of works. Stunned by the number of works and the sheer expansiveness of the show,the artist himself exclaimed, “I did not know I had so many works with me. Probably this is the first time I am looking at my entire body of work. This helps me introspect my journey sofar”. The retrospective proved to be a rare display of living lines, breathing forms and in some of his 2011 works (quite literally), “glittering colours”.

Jogen-da lives and works in Santiniketan, a place known for the abundance of nature. This nature had once found voice in Tagore’s finest lyrics. But the natural landscape hardly makes it to Jogen’s canvas. He surely is a painter of the interiors, of the inner nooks and the corners. The giant flower, dangling from a vessel, or the sprinkled petals often symbolises nature in his paintings. At times, the decorative flower-pots are brought into the household where they intermingle with the conjugal, playing a part in their drama, eliciting a theatrical effect. Apart from the seeming domestication of nature, the immensity of the flowers represents not only a phenomenon of vigorous growth, but a purposeful enlargement. This blowing out of proportion, allows us to look into the depths of a motif, as if inspecting life through a microscope.  His Creeper and Flower(serigraph 2001), offers us a close-up into an aspect of ‘nature’, which is enliven with organic energy. 

In his student life, we see him experimenting a lot, various approaches were tried-out while he searched on for his language. Among the early works, there were several self-portraits and one of them even showed a remarkable affinity to The Far East in its stylistic treatment. As he conversed with an amused spectator, I heard him say how his father would often scribble, and at times make portraits of the domestics who worked for him. His mother was the quintessential Bengali homemaker, devoted to the wellbeing of the family. But art found itself in the various decorative motifs she made in the pillow-covers as well as in the alpanas. This revelation makes one wonder whether Jogen-da got his art in inheritance. But evidently his sensitivity towards “decorative designs” was kindled early in life.   

 His training in the Art College was an important juncture of his life, which impacted his practice deeply. I am in no way, disregarding other influences that had an effect on him, but highlighting the effect, which is often unrecognised.  Standing in the middle of the hall Jogen-da says, “Much to learn from life study”.Life-study acquainted him with the human body, its nakedness and the divinity in its nudity. Walking across the gallery, it was clear to me that life study continued even after his departure from the college.

As a student in the Government Art College from 1955-1960, Jogen-da had to do life-studies and object-studies. The school takes pride in its emphasis on these practices. As mentioned earlier, Jogen-da took great pleasure in drawing the stillness of flesh and object. I am fairly convinced that the practice of life-study, evolved into his matured figurative compositions, while the object-studies, which were usually the study of pots or flower vases metamorphosed into Jogen-da’s decorative vases. After his study at the art college, Jogen spent two years in Paris with a French Government scholarship. He writes about this period, “I did a fair number of pastel drawings in my two years in Paris and about six months in London centring on the human body, with its density and sensuality . . . I found a deep attachment to the line, even as I could sense deep within myself that this was not the end of the road, but just a beginning.” After his return from abroad, he joined the Weaver’s Service Center, Chennai. The following two years proved to be anxious years of his artistic life. Conflicting forces had risen in him as he sought to reconcile his exposure to the great Western masters while sensing a certain responsibility towards the Indian Art tradition.

Once again objects entered his world as teacups, drapery, loom, woven fabrics, fruits and so on. These were the objects that constituted his daily life as an art designer at the weaver’s Service Centre. By this time Jogen-da was spontaneously rendering from the spring of imagination. Also between finishing his college and working in Paris, Jogen-da had cultivated his cross-hatching technique to bring out tones. Cross-hatching, which had emerged from his close observation of skin, was naturally used in his figurative paintings. In his multiple paintings of the Reclining Woman (1960, 1961), among others such as Thinker (1960), this cross-hatching made its debut. But it was not until late sixties or early seventies, with paintings such as Life-II (1976), She (1979), Man looking through his right hand (1980), that this hatching becomes integral to his own parlance. Interestingly, cross-hatching soon appear in his rendering of objects as well. For instances, the exhibition had Intellectual (1973), Reminiscences of a Dream-B (1977) and other paintings, which present fruits and other objects through cross-hatchings. At this point, looking back at his artistic journey, we realise that he is no more standing where two roads had diverged in the wood. He is not anxious about the East or the West, neither is he conscious of their influences. He has taken both the roads – Figurative and Objective. Fortunately they wind-up in his diverse oeuvre, forming an overarching artistic unity whereby his figures and objects seem to have evolved out of the same material.

Walking about the hall, I realised that the “black backgrounds” of his numerous paintings beckon even the laziest spectator. As for myself, I was stunned by the diversity displayed by the blackness. In his larger canvasses Jogen-da often uses dark backgrounds, chiefly black. This not only increases the vivacity of his forms but effectively de-historicizes the painting. It is a play of time and space. The use of black background, as far as the exhibition would suggest, starts with his dream sequences (Reminiscence of a Dream). The dynamics of dreams, demands the darkness of the backdrop. In such instances the colour stands for both ambiguity and vastness of a dream-reality. However it ceases not with the dream sequence. He continues to place his objects and subjects in an undefined “space”. This sort of use is particularly meaningful in the paintings of Bakashur-A and Bakashur –B. Jogen leaves his spectators clueless about Bakashur’s whereabouts. We do not know whether he is in his native myth, or is he actually invading a historical set-up, or more dangerously the contemporary reality. Thereby occasionally the blackness of the canvass also erases a possible reference point.

Although the paintings are sensual, their sexuality is not of an extreme nature. The characters in his canvas, disavow heightened emotions and excitement, while expressing a curious consciousness of the self and the other. Thereby often in his paintings we find confused couples surrounded by an air of ambiguity. The sensuality, Jogen-da portrays, does not drip sexuality as Egon schiele’s sketches and paintings do, but it surely has a place of its own in the modern Indian context. Actually with his bold lines, fluidity of drawing, and a very different portrayal of sexuality, he reminds me of F.N Souza’s figures. But placed against black backgrounds – suggesting unspecified time –his figures have even in their distortion a beauty born out of design and a sensuality married with what William Gilpin called ‘the ornament of time’.

(Image courtesy: Veda Gallery, Chennai)

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