Painting The Past And The Present

Updated: Oct 20 2002, 05:30am hrs
Two ongoing painting exhibitions by two master painters, Chintamoni Kar and Jogen Chowdhury, in Kolkata are worth a visit. Chitamoni Kars works, being exhibited at Chitrakoot Art Gallery, covering the period between 1934 and 1960, highlight the Oriental style.

His works makes one aware of the roots he belongs to. While Yadukari (1934) reminds one of the style of his mentor Nandilal Bose, it does not eclipse Mr Kars own style and identity.

Since he had stayed and nurtured his art mainly in Europe, it is natural that some of his best nostalgic works reflect the very Western styles. The nude figures of sitting women are class apart. And, of course, other works, done with some elliptical patches of brush, defy Bengal school of painting encouraged by Abanindra Tagore and Jamini Roy. However, Mr Kars paintings echo a strong note of Indian elements.

The other exhibition displays the masterly works of Mr Chowdhury. It feels good to discover Mr Chowdhury in his concerns for humanity. His bunch of current paintings is devoted to communal carnage in Gujarat. His drawings bear the marks of anxiety, scars, cuts, greed, anger, frenzy and cruelty. Says Mr Chowdhury, My concern is humanity. The figures create tension in my work. So does space.

While watching his creations, one notices scars of violence and aggressiveness hidden in them. Human head with knife-cut, done with pencil sketch, manifests his protest against inhuman Gujarat carnage. His female nudes also bear the marks of such violence. Images of Hindu mythology sometimes are found in contrast to show religious discrimination.

What is great about this artists creative impulse is that he never ignores his own time, a time tearing through turmoil. This consciousness in the artist is also revealed through his caricatures. His stress on the stomachs of pregnant women ripped apart and the foetus exhibited is understandable. For him real-unreal is important. And that is why his realm of creativity has always remained interesting and timeless. His greatness reveals best when his work of art refuses to be pinned down to a label.

His series of works on carnage would travel to New York to be on view at the Bose Pcia Gallery from November.

PRADIP BISWAS