Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jamini Roy: A Retrospective

Jamini Roy (1887-1972) is one of India’s most celebrated and iconic modern artists, particularly admired for creating playful works in his signature neo-folk style that brought solace to viewers during a turbulent time in Indian history.  His powerful simplicity of line and lyrical compositions served as both a foundation and inspiration for a subsequent generation of figurative Bengal School artists.  A retrospective courtesy New York-based Aicon Gallery brings out the true essence of his oeuvre.

The Santhals, tribal people who live in the rural districts of Bengal, were an important subject for Roy. A series of works done a decade before World War II is a prime example of how he captured the qualities that are a part of native folk painting and combined them with those of his own. He fused the minimal brush strokes of the Kalighat style with elements of tribal art from Bengal.

From the patent beauty of Suhas Roy’s melancholy yet elegant female forms, through the expressive linear physicality and longing of Lalu Prasad Shaw’s couples, to the dignified innocence of Ramananda Bandopadhyay’s scenes of rural life, one feels Jamini Roy’s ever-present influence in these artists’ shared visions of a dreamlike world caught between sensuality and innocence.

In counterpoint, the work of Somnath Hore (1921-2006) expressed a fundamental concern for mankind's underlying inhumanity, disregard of morality and penchant for perpetual violence and conflict. His originality in technique and language led to radical innovations in his media, casting him as a revolutionary founding figure for a darker strain of artists that emerged from the Bengal School.

Ganesh Pyne’s ethereal and haunting images of death as life’s ever-present fellow-traveler, Shyamal Dutta-Ray’s pensive surrealist scenes of society in disintegration, and Bikash Bhattacharjee’s masterfully rendered yet psychologically and spiritually isolated figures, can all be seen as deriving from Hore’s life-long pursuit to give form and figure to the chaos, violence and instability inherent in human nature.

His ‘Wounds’ series carry this stark vision beyond figuration, achieving a unique brand of abstraction, exemplified by ethereal white surfaces punctuated by scar-like disruptions in the hand-made paper, calling to mind the mortification of human flesh resulting from famine, war and other man-made cataclysms.

No comments:

Post a Comment