“Jogen Chowdhury [...] is an artist with a singular sensibility. His innate sense of rhythm, his subtle ability to uncover the sensuality at the heart of events, to draw them together and to slip his longings and fears into a variety of things, truly distinguishes his work of the last 40 years. Behind his ability to gather everything in a cadenced embrace lies his genius to reach out and internalise the ‘other’.” (R.S. Kumar, Jogen Chowdhury – Enigmatic Visions, Fukuoka, 2005, p. 9)
After returning to India from his studies in Paris in the mid-1960s, Chowdhury found work as a textile designer in Madras, and then moved to Delhi in 1972. During this time, the artist developed what has come to be known as his signature style of figuration. His highly-detailed works on paper are executed in ink and pastel, their figures and objects set against pitch black backgrounds. The emphasis was on strong, sinuous lines, and Chowdhury used a distinctive crosshatching technique within these lines to achieve tonal variations, volume, texture and movement. “Chowdhury interprets the human form as simplified, as if through x-ray vision: attenuated, exaggerated, fragmented, reconfigured and rephrased, thus intensifying its visual and conceptual expression. For Chowdhury, the body has to communicate in silence. Often placing it against a dark, vacant background, he does not appropriate the specificities of place or environment; instead he transfers feelings of anguish on to the solitary figure through his gestural mark-making. His deep, dense crosshatched lines simulate body hair and a web of veins take away the smooth sensuality of the classical body to manifest the textures of life.” (K. Singh, India Modern: Narratives from 20th century Indian Art, New Delhi, 2015, p. 129)
The present lot, a surrealist tableau, is populated by a seated lady who seems to have just awoken from slumber and lifted her head from her crossed arms, to find herself confronted by a large pink fish and an iridescent blue and green bird. Here, Chowdhury is perhaps illustrating a dream or fairytale, developing on his important series of monochromatic works from the 1970s titled Reminiscences of a Dream. The meticulous nature of the artist’s process can be seen in the bunched white shawl draped across the lady’s shoulders, as well as the attentive rendering of each hair of her long tresses and the detail in each scale and feather of her companions.