Susanta Chowdhury (b 1973)
“Freedom of expression is the primary prerogative of art. It is not bounded by traditional or conventional dogmas. The ability to break new grounds and explore unfound forms lends credibility, enriches and defines the true nature of art”. Rabindranath Tagore was among the few modern intellectuals in India who realized and pronounced these words.
In general painting is the play of lines and colors, thereby producing effects of light and shade and creating forms on a flat surface. Other than the application of paint, gluing of objects on flat surface is not completely a modern invention. If we look back to the miniature paintings of the middle ages, we often find straps of golden foils glued to the picture surface to enhance the brightness and color of the painting.
The concept of assemblage of “objects” over painted surface already existed in pre modern Europe. We also find similar straits in our folk traditions. Whether the aforementioned examples can be termed as “collage” may be a debatable issue. In respect to modernism Baudelaire, said, “Modernity is something un definable, that constantly changes, it is dynamic and unlimited”. The process of gluing pieces of paper or objects on a flat surface other than color to create an image is called collage. In this respect my works can be termed as collages from a wider perspective. In the process of making collage, scraps of colored paper or objects from variable sources (newspaper, photographs etc.) are glued on the picture surface and transformed into something completely new. In case of my works, I directly attach photographs on the picture surface without making any distortion unless subjective requirements.
My work has evolved through experimenting with different styles and tendencies to suite the needs of expression. Picasso’s, “Still Life With Chaircaning”, Richard Hamilton’s, ‘Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Houses So Different’, Francis Bacon’s, ‘Screaming Heads’, Atul Dodia’s, “Rolling Shutters”, Bhupen Khakkar’s, “Pan Shop” and the works of B.R. Pannesar, Shakila and Bikash Bhattacharya have been an important source of inspiration to form my own visual language.
The advent of globalization, so called ‘free market economy’, neo consumerism, global terrorism and the environmental crisis have largely affected the socio cultural and political scenario of the world and in a way it has affected our daily lives. The rapid changes in lifestyles, revolution in communication technology, fashion, the stark reality of violence, disparity and genocide, the kaleidoscopic view of television, popular cinema, advertisements and the day to day mundane reality have been an integral part of the contemporary psyche and have shaped my sensibilities. As I belong to an urban space the massive Omni present visual culture of advertisements, billboards and various consumer products have played an important part to shape my own visual language in terms of rendering space, design and color. I use photographs from daily newspapers, magazines and recently I am using self taken photographs in my works that bears significance and relation to the time and reality I share. While using newspaper photograph I go through a strenuous technical process to make it durable and lasting. I directly paste the photograph on the picture surface and gradually develop the imagery in accordance to the narrative it provides and build a parallel story through multiple layers that merges and synchronizes with the reality of the photograph. I choose images as per my needs of expression in reference to the complexities and issues of the time. The usage of photograph renders flatness to the picture plane. I use textures and colors in accordance to the pictorial demands and integrate various elements in its subjective context. A de contextualization occurs when a photograph is taken from a newspaper or a magazine and glued to a completely new surface. The potency of the imagery itself arise new possibilities and conflicts and initiates a dialogue with the self. The photograph is at the same time personalized and depersonalized. My work is a result of a process of a dialogue with the self and the photograph giving scope to a new context and meaning. I often use repetition of an image as a tool of design and intensification of the subject. Texts and sentences, phrases from comic strips and repetition of images interplay with visual metaphors and symbols as a devise for parody and irony. Often iconic images coexist with the mundane and photographs are juxtaposed with various elements to intensify and connote to the different layers of a shared contemporary reality. My work has a textual note and makes room for multiple reading.
I begin my works with the fantasy of a photograph that evolves in relation to the reality of the space and time I belong. It is a continuum of a process of a way of seeing and commenting on the contemporary life and times."