In The Grey Vase, executed in 1976- the flower vase is situated midway between two cropped figures, of a man and a woman, floating in uncertain space. It is an immensely significant work not only because it is the only one of its kind that uses centrally cropped figures, but also because of the way in which it subsumes a sense of transience within a tenderly lyrical frame of abiding love. The figures are exactly halved, carrying the visual suggestion that the whole can be captured only by combining the halves, indicating also that the lovers exist only as fragments of themselves prior to their coming together. The bodies are separated yet, while their hands meet at the point which is marked by the presence of the vase, celebrating, as it were, the moment of intimate contact.
The flowers are erect while the leaves have that inevitable downward droop- associated with death and decay- that can be noticed in many of his other works. The couple is holding hands in a delicate gesture of reassurance, while the flower vase, claiming central focus, silently keeps reminding us of the essential mutability of all life: the flowers in the vase, unrooted, will wither, just as time will also catch up with the lovers. But the presentness of the pristine, unspoiled moment freezes fulfillment in all its glory within aesthetic space: this delicate dialogue between love and mutability is a strand that seems to spring right out of a Shakespeare sonnet. Interesting, too, is the seeming suspension of the vase- it floats like a central icon in undefined space, curiously reminiscent of the space in which Muqi Fachang’s Six Persimmons float. It is a space that holds time, yet repudiates it, and is undefined because it is finally a conceptual space- beyond real-life visionary experience- where binaries are allowed to meet and coalesce." (Correspondence with A. Ghosh, the editor of a seminal upcoming publication on Jogen Chowdhury's still lifes, February 2019)
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