In recent times, exhibitions of the artist, Jogen Chowdhury, have inevitably been of his line drawings. These are held quite frequently. He has held such exhibitions at Debovasha too in the past. However, this Selimpur Road art gallery’s exhibition titled Colours of Water — part of its year-long celebration of the artist’s 85th birthday — was different insomuch that 16 small watercolours were displayed. Given the artist’s talents, this couldn’t have been an arduous task for him.
The subjects remained almost unchanged — portraits, flowers, naturescapes — and, along with watercolours, he used dry pastel to add depth to his brushstrokes. It is easy to visualise how the artist dipped his brush into paint and almost without a pause gave shape to the image he had in mind. Of the portraits, there was one profile that looked remarkably androgynous. It somewhat resembled the visage of Tutankhamun without his crown. The large, dark eyes could have belonged to the Minoan La Parisienne. The features of two women in other portraits looked familiar. They make an appearance in most of Chowdhury’s exhibitions.
Chowdhury’s flowers seemed to burst into tongues of flames, even though the stalks and leaves drooped. One resembled a yellow and orange umbrella composed of tiny petals; another was a bright red and orange crested cockscomb; the third was a tight cluster of small pink petals. The petals of an orange canna that could also have been a hibiscus drooped, while the tip of the pistil laden with pollen stood upright. These were not botanical studies. In all likelihood, his imagination gave birth to them.
The hills and the sea were devoid of human presence. They seemed to have a spirit and mood of their own. The faded ultramarine and indigo hills were a picture of tranquility. Swirling grey clouds loomed over the dark, brooding range of mountains. Blue grey clouds also hovered over the turbulent, phosphorus green waters of an ocean. Indigo monsoon clouds gathered over a choppy sea. Nature can be temperamental.