At the OED art gallery at Mattancherry, there is a painting by artist Jogen Chowdhury called the ‘Bakasur’. It is the story of Bagasura, the bird demon, who had been slain by Lord Krishna. The image is of a fearsome bird with his tongue sticking out. It seems to convey excruciating pain and is a symbol of a man who is burdened with a sense of mortality.
In another work, there is a claw which is about to clutch a flower. This portrays the destruction caused by the human incursion into nature. The painting, ‘Homage to Nandigram’, is a critique of the disturbing events that took place in Nandigram in 2007 where the pro-farmer cadres of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) tried to grab land for a Special Economic Zone and this led to violence. In ‘Homage’, there is a fearsome demon who is about to engulf a naked and emaciated woman. These works, which are rich in symbolism, have been done using ink, pastel and screen painting.
The typical Jogen Chowdhury style is of crosshatching, an artistic technique which is used to create tonal or shading effects by using lines and curves. He is also known for blending traditional imagery with contemporary themes. “The works are scintillating,” says Prema Vishwanath, an art enthusiast from Kochi. “This exhibition provides an opportunity for people like me to know more about art.”
Many of the works have a price tag of `6 lakh or more. The “Homage to Nandigram’, which is considered Jogen’s magnum opus, has a selling price of ` 28 lakhs. The other major works include ‘Flower and Sword’, ‘A Couple’, ‘Lotus and Tree’, and ‘The Skull’.
An alumnus of the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux art, Jogen was given the sobriquet of ‘The Indian Leger’ (Fernard Leger is a French painter who created his own style of Cubism). Born in 1939 in Firadpur in Bangladesh, Jogen was deeply affected by his memories of the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, and the famine and political unrest in Bengal. Jogen is also a prolific writer who has written extensively on the arts, and has a collection of poems to his credit. He has received several accolades, like the Prix le France de la Jeune Peinture, and an award given at the Second Biennale of Havana, Cuba, apart from the Kalidas Samman by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. He is now regarded as one of the leading figures in Indian art.
The exhibition will conclude on Saturday.