Jogen Chowdhury’s lines of art


He says that the brush line can be like the throb of the heart. That when he puts a line on the canvas, the feeling is reminiscent of the flow of blood. And many times, it is not about what he is trying to project, after all form is also important. “Technique cannot be ignored, otherwise it is not art,” major contemporary artist Jogen Chowdhury tells IANS.

His multiple works, mostly drawings on different subjects are part of the group exhibition ‘Fluid Realities’ presented by Art Alive Gallery (October 4-10) that opened at Bikaner House in the capital.

The artist, who lives and works in Santiniketan and is considered a master of lines — in whose early works one witnesses a strong Bengal influence, especially the left movement, says that all that stems from social consciousness. “We were quite young when we migrated from East Bengal after the Partition. The state was witnessing one crisis after the other, and there were subsequent political movements in West Bengal. That had a deep impact on our psychology and activities — something bound to reflect in the work.”

Even though mainstream communist parties play little role in the contemporary political landscape, he asserts that while the left idea was for the people, one cannot really copy the Russian and the Chinese revolutions. “I still maintain that the idea has a lot of potential and could work. However, the leaders are not able to decide what and how to do it,” says the artist who studied at the Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France.

Chowdhury, who also does a lot of small work in order to make them accessible to the middle-class, says he has been deriving immense joy from that. “There is a sizable number of people who want to possess works and may not be able to afford the larger ones.”

At a time when most of his contemporaries were heavily influenced by the West, Chowdhury has always found the rural life in Bengal and India fascinating. Even when he was in France and England, and closely observed the developments in French, British and American art, he was clear that he did not want to follow what they were doing. “When it comes to abstract, several Indian artists tend to copy the West. But abstract art was also in India. Also, I believe that real form can also have an abstract quality. I took the real form, and expressed it in a way that it also has abstract qualities, both in the human body and natural objects.”

For someone who can play Indian and western music, and is a published poet, different art forms come together to develop an inner rhythm. He says that while writing verse may not be technically similar to painting, but both evoke similar emotions. “Also, structurally, there is a similarity. Be it poetry or music, one can always feel a structure. This is something one has to feel and understand.”

The artist, a former Rajya Sabha MP (Trinamool Congress) smiles that within three months he started feeling disinterested. “I observed that for most political leaders, it is only about staying in power.”

Believing that it is important to observe and understand the art being made across the world, the artist opines that while doing that it was paramount to keep oneself open to one’s own culture, society and life. “Otherwise we would not be able to do something extraordinarily original.”