Chhitrovanu Mazumder’s art ~ hidden & revealed

Chhitrovanu Mazumder’s art

Chhitrovanu Mazumder’s art (PHOTO: SNS)

Born in Paris in 1956, Mazumder spent most of his childhood in Kolkata and in a remote area in rural Jharkhand. Son of the renowned Indian Modernist painter Nirode Mazumdar (1916-1982), he first rose to prominence as a painter in the 1980s and 1990s, transitioning to installation work in the mid to late 1990s. Mazumdar has referred to himself as an expressionist painter, but has also said he generally prefers not to use a particular word to qualify his work as it comprises of different kinds of media and forms, and that art is more interesting when fully given over to the viewer's own experience rather than constrained by the prescriptive power of labels.

He has often collaborated with Seagull Publications to design books, and with Kolkata-based theater groups to design performance spaces. Mazumdar lives and works primarily in Kolkata and is associated with the 1X1 Gallery in Dubai. Major exhibitions of his work have been presented in Dubai, Kolkata, London, Mumbai, New Delhi, New York, Palo Alto, Paris, Rome, Singapore and Salzburg, amongst other places. His paintings are housed in the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and in several private collections internationally. Most recently Mazumdar has exhibited at the third Kochi-Muziris Biennale (until March 2017), India Art Fair (February 2017), and Art Dubai (March 2017).

At the heart of Mazumdar's work in undated Nightskinsits the inevitable tension between dark and light. Darkness forms a first impression. Swelling and pervasive, it evokes vulnerability and desire. His work is the story of this long night. The emergence of light is subdued and revelatory. It is a light that is precious; only allowed to flicker and dim for fear it will be lost.

This is not the light of Kolkata, the artist's home - the sprawling, electrified city of eastern India - but that of the small and impoverished state of Jharkhand. The artist returns to Jharkhand again and again, to the land passed down from his father, experiencing the endless darkness of this alien place. Only occasionally a few bulbs glow golden, visible for miles, like a miracle.

Red, white, gold, and black form the dominant colour palette in these works: primal colours of energy, desire, and sustainability; of pure being and pure will. The title of the installation is taken from the artist's diaries, in reference to the darkness of the night, in which entries are made as thoughts and ideas recorded without chronology. As part of this notion of an 'incomplete diary' recorded by the artist, the exhibition represents his relationship with the world in constantly changing contexts.

Undated Nightskin comprises of a series of works in rooms or chambers. The terrain of these chambers is that of mythology, of the archetypal and ancient, resonating in all that we do and see. Operating as dreams do, deep below our daily activity, their presence is a pressure we don't clearly understand. Much is hidden from us, and just as much is revealed. We are buffeted by physical, sensual, emotional currents that we are not able to fully fathom. The viewer moves through these chambers, as they move through life, making meaning from fragments.

Undated Nightskin is being exhibited at Mana Contemporary, New Jersey from April 30 until August 26, 2017.