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Jogen Chowdhury

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1939, Faridpur, Bangladesh
Lives and works in Santiniketan, West Bengal, India

Known for his figurative drawings in ink and pastel, Jogen Chowdhury is one of the renowned contemporary artists whose paintings are a reflection of the solitude and sufferings of the human due to political and social injustices. A unique technique of crosshatching features in most of his works. Distorted lines and dark backgrounds intensify the visual and conceptual expression that he seeks to typify through this art.

Education

1967

Ecole Nationale, Superieure des Beaux -Arts, Paris

1960

Studio of Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata

1960

Government College of Art and Crafts, Kolkata

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Jogen Chowdhury

Crosshatching is an integral part of his ink and pastel drawings

Jogen Chowdhury is predominantly popular for his line drawings with ink. The use of ink combined with pastels has been his forte, with which he explores the soft curves and angularities of contorted bodies.

A technique that the artist generously used in his ink and pastel works is crosshatching. In fact, it has become the most recognizable feature of Chowdhury’s style. With crosshatching, he’s developed the illusion of middle tonalities, creating volume by the use of modulating light and shade.

Jogen Chowdhury, Wound, 2002, pen and ink with pastel on paper, 11 x 14”

His oeuvre is a reflection of the social and political injustices around him

Chowdhury’s works have been greatly affected by the traumatic effects of the Partition, the thoughtless political anarchy, terrorism and killings in West Bengal. He can see how the society and culture is gradually transforming to chaos and unkindness. This dominance of inhumanity over man, peace and sanity disturbs him. How partisan politics, terrorism and violence are destroying the network of finer social fabric of the people is brought to the fore in his works.

‘Abu Ghraib’ is one such work that is created out of his reaction to these social injustices happening around him. In this work, the pen and ink lines to create cuts and bruises on the body of a man symbolises the human condition of a prisoner.

Jogen Chowdhury, Abu Ghraib, mixed media on paper

The body as the site of suffering

In his “Encountered”, the artist’s use of cross-hatching technique is more prevalent. This work lends the figure of the screaming man a corporal fleshiness that makes us feel the intensity through his skin. The compositional construction of the window frame, and the man’s distance from it, brings this person directly into our presence. The man’s fierce expression brings to mind the police encounters, both real and fake, which frequently make the headlines in the country. The controversial issue of encountering the gangsters by government authorities has raised all the issues of extra-judicial killings. But whether this work is a political comment or a more general take on aggression and fear is left for the viewer to decide.

Jogen Chowdhury, Encountered, pen and ink with pastel on paper

Man is always the centre point of his works

Jogen Chowdhury’s art is not only a form of self expression but a reflection of a collective and subjective consciousness. Having experienced the traumatic effects of the Partition, dislocation and a sense of isolation, his figures reflect an intractable solitude and the sufferings of human. The socio-political injustices can even be seen in his individual figures as well as the couple paintings.

Distorted lines and dark backgrounds define the ideology behind his oeuvre. With distorted lines and strokes he expresses the nuances of human feelings and human emotions and their subtle ups and downs in the daily experiences. The dark, vacant background which seems to vanish projects a spatial sequence. These forms help him interpret the human form as simplified, exaggerated way, thus intensifying its visual and conceptual expression.

Jogen Chowdhury, Untitled, 1977, ink and pastel on paper, 13 x 13”