Saturday, June 1, 2013

What made Somnath Hore’s art practice unique

The vivacious visual appeal of Somnath Hore’s practice was further enhanced by the rough surfaces, holes, slits, and exposed channels. Perhaps the most powerful and poignant statement made by the socially sensitive practitioner was ‘Wounds’, his critically acclaimed pulp print series. It was cataclysmic phase of the 1940’s onwards, the 1943 Bengal Famine in particular, which went on to shape his consciousness and vision as an artist. From 1974, he started working on bronze sculptures, also exuding the anguished human form, a trademark of his fascinating figuration.

Veteran artist K. G. Subramanyan had mentioned in an insightful essay in the catalogue published on the occasion of a significant exhibition courtesy the Kolkata-based Seagull Foundation: “On a summer morning the world glows with sunlight, the flowers load the trees, the breeze wafts around a heady kind of perfume—but in Somnath’s vision it is the spectacle of man’s suffering that steals the show. In his paintings and sculptures, in prints and drawings, it is invariably the same.

"This has been so since a long time. Since he saw the disastrous Bengal famine more than forty years ago; and behind it the panorama of rural poverty when still a youth. He goes over and over this obsessively. In everything he sees, he reads its gesture of tragedy. So in a crack in the earth, he sees a dire menace. In fissures in the wall, he recalls a gaping wound. Even his sensuous fantasies are sewn up in a skin of suffering.

"Lean bodies of men and women huddled in wan despair. With faces whose flesh sinks into the bone; whose chests cannot find enough skin to hide their hollow nakedness; whose eyes are sockets from which all light has been drained out; mouths whose only voice is that of rattling teeth. Then the skinny dogs and bony cows and goats that keep them languid company. They do not repel our eye; they draw us in.”

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