As the capital gets ready for the second edition of India Art Summit with every art gallery choosing the customary option of presenting a group of artists, there is one exception that comes as a breath of fresh air, and art! Dubai-based 1x1 Art Gallery is the only gallery to present a solo artist and will be showcasing a brand new series of works by Calcutta’s renowned and equally reclusive artist Chittrovanu Mazumdar at the summit.
Says Malini Gulrajani, Director, 1x1 Art Gallery: “Most people would shy from showing a single artist at such an international platform. I, however, believe that commerce should be the last concern of a gallery and to do justice to Chittro’s work that I admire so much, a solo exhibit was the only way.”
Reciprocating the loyalty in equal measure, artist Chittrovanu Mazumdar has created for this project a brand-new series ranging from three-four large mixed media works in mediums as difficult and diverse as tar, wax, metal, light and photography that will be wall mounted; a series of small photographic as well as wax works and a sculpture-installation. There are works made of lights on mild steel panel with dimmer, speakers and soundtrack; acrylic paint, wax and tar on plywood and mild steel; wax on plywood with gold leaf as well as tinted silver leaf and few digital works of human and landscape imagery with wax and tar on mild steel.
According to Chittrovanu Mazumdar - “The blueprint for my new works is the cohabitation of opposites.” He explains that by using light-hungry, night-dark tar and the trays of light that feed those depths while simultaneously reflecting off them; he has juxtaposed mythical reverberations of black and white. The human weight of history - of making, of handcrafting - bespoken by age-old materials such as beeswax, metal, tar has been combined with sheer virtuality to produce digital prints, screen images and electronic soundscape. The promise of touch foregrounded through the textured tactility of poured colour or the exposed skin are evident in the prints on display. The curved arc of the containing womb-pod with its eternal potential of bursting, birthing and the unsettling presence of the unknown and the known are present amidst all the neatly framed geometric assertion on the walls.
Another highlight at the summit will be Chittrovanu’s video titled ‘Sleep’ which will be shown at the Video Lounge. The fifteen-minute video showcases the interrogation of the surface where the depths erupt unpredictably through cracks in a seemingly seamless skin; the metaphor of sleep and escaping dreams that inevitably rupture the face of an ostensibly calm and tranquil order as aural signs of disruption, chaos, always imminent and never predictable, haunt the mind.
Says Chittrovanu Mazumdar: “I consider myself as an expressionist painter and believe that art is a private activity for the artist, a search within the individual. To me, work is the space of freedom where everything can move, turn around, transform and become something else. There are structures and systems that one follows up to a point but then gets out of them.”
While this would be 1x1 Art Gallery’s first foray into the Indian market, the artist himself is no newcomer. While his last solo show in Delhi was at Bodhi Art Gallery in 2005, Chittrovanu has shown extensively across the globe since his first art outing in 1985. He has established himself as one of India's leading contemporary artists. Fusing the intellectual with the sensual in a unique way, the artist has exhibited across the world like at Jehangir Art Gallery (Mumbai); Bose Pacia Modern (New York); Seagull Foundation (Kolkata); Latit Kala (Chennai); Aicon Gallery (London). He had also been invited to display at the Victoria Memorial Durbar Hall, Calcutta (1991) and joined the ranks of the previous two invitees M F Husain and Bikash Bhattacharjee.
Born in 1956, Paris, Chittrovanu Mazumdar studied painting and printmaking at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts, Paris in 1983 after graduating from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta with a gold medal. Starting his career as a painter with huge canvases, mammoth solo shows and exploring a broad spectrum of media and technology in his work, his range of references is vast, incorporating inputs from his own culturally rich upbringing in Kolkata and Paris and an astonishing range of eclectic reading in three languages - French, English and Bengali. His work pulls from various influences, be it visual, musical or lyrical. His paintings - using bold brushstrokes, layered imagery, abstract images and elements of collage - express the conflicting experiences and beliefs that exist within modern society and man. His canvases exude intensity and vigor and are representational of his feelings of angst and suppression in a fast paced city. Distinctive by their blaze of colour and a free-flowing application of paint, his works have the ability to seamlessly shift from abstraction to figuration and naturalism. He treats the conventions of modernism not as constrictive theories but as stylistic options, employing abstraction, figuration, the macabre and the jovial all in a single work.
One of his most unsurpassed exhibitions in the past titled ‘Undated – Night Skin’ had amorphous sounds floating in plangent music. Embedded in the ominous military machines were fragments of human experiences - images of living spaces, dreamlike landscapes, panels of intense red impasto like coagulated blood, flowing water, cries, the lights of a city at night, the wail of an infant, a woman alone, sirens and traffic sounds, stained walls and doors and windows, a female voice pleading, a placid pig wallowing in the filth etc.
Equally evocative is the artist’s photography work that he has showcased in the past. His photographs tells a story of a place where violence, vandalism and death have just taken place, producing a comment on the present socio-political situation of India. One of the digital prints shows a calf’s carcass that lies abandoned to its fate, the potential symbols for death and decay, connoting the cyclical nature of life – what comes from the earth goes back to the earth. Says Chittrovanu: “I had a strong interest in photography and began to incorporate my own photographs in my works with painterly intervention or with a third presence, the intrusion of an exterior world. However, in due course of time, I started using photoshop on it. For the photographic series, I had travelled to Jharkhand where I chose a one square kilometer of desolated marshy land as the location and reworked on my clicked images. It was the textual and visual possibilities of a fictionalized documentary that inspired me to do these series.
Continuously reinventing himself for the past three decades, Chittrovanu has always been ahead of his times and moved in a new direction with every show, simultaneously returning to the most primeval of human emotions – fear, hunger, ecstasy, desire. His art boldly blends elements of pop art with abstract swathes of colour, dealing with human paradox and ambiguity, of the seeping grey of daily life that escapes the purity of black and white. What appears to link the very visually and formally different phases of his work is the intensity of sensual immersion demanded by the artist of both himself and the viewer. The viewer feels compelled to unravel the meaning behind the artist's often fragmented compositions. Through the layers of translucent and opaque paint over collages of images and text, one suddenly notices the vehement gaze of belligerent eyes or a desperately outstretched hand. Mazumdar states, “I enjoy the fact that it isn’t a definite, complete form. The half-formed figure is always in the process of becoming. It remains a promise, full of possibilities.”
ABOUT 1X1 ART GALLERY
A major force in promoting Contemporary Indian Art in Dubai, 1x1 has organized and presented ‘Af-fair’ in Dubai in March 2008 curated by Bose Krishnamachari bringing to fore works of artist like Anant Joshi, Hema Upadhyaya, Jyothi Basu, Justin Ponmany, Riyas Komu, TV Santosh, Parvathy Nayar, Minal Damani, Vivek Vilsani and Aji VN soon to be launched as a documented book. Few other shows 1x1 has presented lately are ‘The New Place’, ‘Route-en-Route’, ‘Urban/Image’, ‘Art Paris’. Solo exhibits include Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Jogen Choudhary, Jatin Das, Jaideep Mehrotra, Senaka Senanayake, M.F Husain besides group shows presenting ‘Pratul Dash and Rajesh Ram’ and ‘Farhad Husain, Kazi Nazir and Binoy Varghese’.