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Woven in Time

Woven in Time: Glimpses of Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Ganesh Pyne and Jogen Chowdhury

In its pursuit of extensive explorations of different artistic expressions Kalakriti Art Gallery presents in-depth oeuvres and artistic inclinations of iconic artists from Bengal,, Gaganendranth Tagore (1867-1938), Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951), Ganesh Pyne (1937-2013) and Jogen Chowdhury (b. 1913).

Emerging during different moments in time, their visual vocabularies reached a point of intersection within the city of Calcutta. These path-breaking iconic artists led the avant-garde mobilization in Indian art with the Tagore brothers being the pal-bearers of Indian Modernism that shaped individual artistic styles and preoccupations for generations of Indian artists. The chronological radius of the exhibition spans over a century from early 1900s to early 2000s, showcasing artworks from the Kalakriti Art Gallery (KAG) collection.

Beginning with Abanindranth Tagore, a pioneering figure in modern Indian art who painted a range of subjects, particularly leaning towards images with historic or literary allusions. Nicholas Roerich described Abanindranath as "A power beacon, as a guru of an entire school of art." He transformed the post Renaissance academic realism into which he was trained with his series of contacts with oriental art into something more supple and responsive to the imaginative flights of his mind. He arrived on the Indian art scene with the first wave of Indian nationalism, and was seen as a father figure of nationalist art and modernism.

Gaganendranath Tagore, a satirical cartoonist and painter, grew up in a family whose exceptional creativity spearheaded Calcutta's cultural scene. He stood out as an individual from the artists of his time since he produced works which was experimental, at a time when such innovations were unheard of. For his paintings, he sough to absorb influences from the West into his own personal vision of forms, emerging as visionary avant-gardist.

An intensely private artist, the clues to Ganesh Pyne’s personality were often sought for in his paintings charged with the supernatural. Pyne’s paintings are metaphysical and suffused with a primeval darkness. There is a “lost world” quality to them that is timeless. His paintings endure because they are unlike those of any other modernist working in India. They verge on the surreal. Pyne paints these eerie twilight zones, somewhere between reality and fiction.

Jogen Chowdhury’s art expresses collective consciousness and the Self. He is known for his forthright portrayal of the rot and pain that is an innate part of human existence. The distorted human figures in his artworks stand out in overpowering, unfaltering lines that run across the canvas, giving him the label ‘master of unbroken lines.’ His knack of juxtaposing contrary emotions, the known and unknown and the real and imaginary make his practice not only a form of succinct self-expression but a subtle manifestation, of a broader collective and subjective consciousness.

The exhibition pursues the intensity and the edge at which these four practices seem to be located without looking at it through the lens of history or politics associated with the artistic practices of these four. It tries to look through the traces of what has remained or distilled through long process of artistic gesticulations on canvas or paper. Delving into the empirical and the subconscious, these modern masters have created extraordinary visuals, meticulously ossified from the worlds seen and sensed. They take viewers on a journey to the unknown, sometimes through direct representation of the real, and at times with allegories and obscure symbols.

The exhibition oscillates between scenes soaked in half-light, colour fields, unbroken lines or contours of a figure, decay and poetic distortions, as if almost hiding the corporeal body and paving paths to view the body of a landscape. Collective anxieties and turmoil surface often in interesting ways in this selected body of work. The exhibition explores how the transfigured, charged and complex imagery challenges rigid perceptions of viewing taking one through their unique journey from different phases of aesthetic formulations: from being chroniclers, appropriating the roles of narrator, illustrator, image makers and activists to being myth-shapers.

A diverse range of techniques, mediums and configurations constitute this presentation. Many of the works included in this exhibition will be on view to the public for the first time.