Chowdhury was born in East Bengal and during Partition was moved with his family to Calcutta. In 1965, Chowdhury went to Paris on a French Government scholarship where he studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. He also worked at Atelier 17, a print studio set up by the English artist, Stanley William Hayter, where Krishna Reddy was assistant director. Chowdhury's return to India from Paris in 1967 marked a turning point in his career. In 1969 he began his famous series, Reminiscences of a Dream. These intricate ink and wash crosshatched drawings echoed the etchings he produced whilst working at the Atelier.
From the 1970s onwards, Chowdhury began to include references to popular visual culture. During this period he also developed his own unique approach for the treatment of the figures in his canvases. He drew inspiration from folk art sources, including Kalighats and Battala woodcuts. The current work demonstrates Chowdhury's appreciation of the Bengal pat tradition and his emphasis on autobiographical narrative. Chowdhury references local traditions and popular visual culture to comment on the complexities and contradictions of Bengali middle-class society. The artist combines fantasy with reality to produce figures that are often grotesque and distorted. 'The sheer range of characters, temperaments and manners that I observed in the people that I saw around myself fascinated me. I portrayed them from an essentially personal perspective. In my characterisation of these people, I crossed the bounds of realistic representation and let imagination take over.' (ibid. p. 31).
His subjects are usually rendered against a black background, their fluid contours tightened with cross-hatching and heightened with touches of colour. The absence of a background allows the viewer to focus purely on the central character, evoking a sense of human alienation. His figures are woven into a shape with a spidery web of dense cross hatched lines, fleshed out with a hint of colour added with a soft dry pastel. 'We did not have electricity in our house and I had to read by the hurricane lantern. I had to fall back on black and white because we did not have enough light...We had a miserable state of living when we came to Kolkata as refugees...The criss-crossing lines, too, may be carrying traces of the environmental and mental complications of that time.' (ibid. p. 52).
The current work also aptly illustrates Jogen's sensitivity to pattern and texture that came from his training and work as a textile designer at the Weavers' Service Centre in Chennai during the late 1960s. '...I have always been fascinated by the conventional forms of a sari draping around a woman's body, and I have sought through that image, forms of my own making, in a new manner (ibid. p. 32).
Other 'Couples' from the same series are in the Peabody Essex Museum's Herwitz Collection (S. Bean, Midnight to the Boom, Painting in India after Independence, Thames & Hudson, London, 2013, p. 147, pl. 36) and the Jehangir Nicholson Collection (Y. Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art, The Progressives, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2001, p. 85, fig. 40).
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