Jogen Chowdhury (1939)
Hailing from a village in present-day Bangladesh, Jogen Chowdhury moved to Calcutta following Partition. A student of Prodosh Das Gupta, Chowdhury worked in a confident expressionistic style of figuration in his early years. His world was full of lewd men with bellies like sacks and women with loose, hanging breasts: his gallery of the grotesque. Over the years his pictorial language has undergone a radical change. A three-year sojourn in Paris reinforced his creative thought processes as he worked to arrive at a distinctive personal style. Chowdhury interprets the human form as simplified, as if through x-ray vision: attenuated, exaggerated, fragmented, reconfigured and rephrased, thus intensifying its visual and conceptual expression.
For Chowdhury, the body has to communicate in silence. Often placing them against a dark, vacant background, he does not appropriate the specificities of place or environment; instead, he transfers feelings of anguish on to the solitary figure through his gestural mark-making. His deep, dense crosshatched lines simulate body hair and a web of veins take away the smooth sensuality of the classical body to manifest the textures of life, and often a battered body. Chowdhury believes art in India is neither subsumed in the miniature traditions nor in those of Ajanta, for India is neither a monolith nor a static entity, and that a notion of Indianness should not be fixed into some kind of timeless loop.
Jogen Chowdhury has been awarded the Madhya Pradesh government’s Kalidas Samman and at the 2nd Havana Biennale in Cuba. Chowdhury lives and works in Kolkata and Santiniketan.