Remembering Rabin Mondal

If you  met Rabin Mondal for the first time, you would feel quite taken aback by his presence. At first glance, he was thin & tall, humble & gentle, an observer. A part of the crowd but yet alone, talkative & yet silent. Restless, but not careless. On entering you would find paintings in process,brushes scattered all around,dunes of used & unused tubes of oil & acrylic paint lying on the floor & the tables. Finished canvases in a row against the walls, books on modern & contemporary Western & Indian art which he acquired from different places, sketch books,pens,pencils etc etc all across in a room,where he used to spend most of his time. A room he called his studio. His studio was a place of meditation, a place where silence prevailed. In the orderly disorder, he found a climate suitable to work-a space where he created those haunting works of art.

Deeply influenced by the Bengal Famine, the violence-torn years of Calcutta in the 60’s & 70’s, suffering of the poor, & personal illness,  Rabin Mondal’s works were anything but a pretty picture.The images are grotesque & used these to convey what he has seen living in Howrah through the 30’s & 40’s.His works show the darkness in society & touch upon themes of politics, corruption, power,suffering & tyranny. The refugee crisis in the early 1970s, following the formation of Bangladesh next door, Rabinda ( as he was fondly called in social circles) represented the human degradation that came out of loss, turmoil & the complete depletion of economic resources. Rabinda’s depiction of trauma, like Picasso’s “Guernica,” is about the human condition during war. Unlike the revival of Neo-Expressionism by artists such as Georg Baselitz & Julian Schnabel in the ’70s & ’80s that came as a response to earlier movements of Minimalism & Pop Art, Mondal’s expressionistic style germinated from endemic despair.

Isolation & loneliness permeate all of Mondal’s pictures. Be it his abstract totems or his kings, their expressions are hauntingly bereaved. Often referring to his own isolation from being sick for many years as a child, Mondal’s images are steeped in a solitary battle.

However,he never received the attention he rightly deserved. His depiction of the same historical period, which gave rise to so many powerful artists warrants recognition for its dynamic, abstracted portrayal of the horrific aftermath of famine & war.

 

  • Vinayak Pasricha.
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