Jogen Chowdhury

• What, according to you, is art? What is the place of art in the world? Does this role change with time or does it remain the same? How do your answers relate to Indian art? To art today? To your own work?

Ans: For me art is ultimately transcendental. Whatever may be its source or purpose, and in whatever manner, medium or form it is created, ultimately all arts basically should contain transcendental quality.

Art is an essential element in our whole existence. Without it our life and civilization could not have become so vital and beautiful. In fact art is manifested in all objects required for our daily lives (i.e. our home, clothes, furniture, potteries or ornaments etc.) besides in the creative works done by the artists. They are sensitive, enjoyable and reactive.

Role of art is varied. Its role changes due to change of time and space. But its purpose fundamentally is to move our senses through visual or conceptual ideas, forms or images – until we get transcendental. Art also can be educative, an instrument to convey deep social messages and narrates life and its surroundings.

I think it is no different in Indian art too.

My own work may perhaps have similar qualities - it is up to others to observe.

• What made you decide to be an artist? What are its satisfactions? Its problems?

Ans: Since I was young, I enjoyed doing drawing, painting and clay modeling. I had the confidence that I could do drawing and painting reasonably well to become an artist. Moreover, being an idealist I had no problem to take a decision to be a creative artist.

To get involved in creativity is most fascinating. If keeps me alive and happy even in difficult times. I have no serious individual problem being an artist – but there are social/infrastructural/economic problems - which effect our art and art activities.

• How do you arrive at a decision about what artwork to make? Its formal aspects? Its content? The process you will use? The context you will relate your artwork to?

Ans: I do not instantly take a decision to make an artwork. It is an outcome of a long process of thoughts/experiences/observations/ understanding of life and knowledge of historical growth of arts, charged with inspiring situation and imagination. In my work I never make a calculated decision to make a form or to infuse content. It depends on an inspiring condition of my mind.

• What role does nature play in your art? How do you think of nature?

Ans: Nature is vital for my art. Nature gives so much elements to my work. It may be human nature or the earthly nature – both are fascinating to me. Human nature is most mysterious & deep, and nature of earth, plants and flowers, their organic structures attract me - inspires me. I am not particularly interested in the beauty of natural landscapes.

• How do you see the relation between art and reason? Art and emotion? Art and philosophy? Art and science? Art and society? Art and politics? Art and commerce? How does your own work relate to these things?

Ans: There may be a relation between art and reason. But art has its own reason. Since it is transcendental, it is always mysterious, magical, spiritual, abstract or infinite behind its apparent image of reality or concreteness. A concrete form made of all reasons may not always create an artwork. It is infinite in finiteness; it is abstract in real form. But reason is essential to explore and to initially plan an artwork.

Emotion is much associated with art. An emotionally charged condition of an artists mind touches the undefined magical quality, the abstract or the infiniteness of reality, in its transcendental mood. Emotion can be very expressive and visual in art works. But it can also be restrained and preserved. It can be infused in an artwork and made frozen – to make it pregnant wit force and power.

Every artwork has a concept - a philosophy to begin and grow. It gives dimensions to artists work. Sometimes in contemporary artwork philosophy or concept becomes a dominating factor ignoring the aesthetic and visual elements of an artwork. But such philosophy cannot be just academic or bookish – it needs to be a sincere belief of the artist - born out of his deep experiences of life.

Science has always influenced art to explore, experiment and to find new forms. Though out the history of civilization development of human living, created by science has enormously influenced the artists to create new art expressions and images besides providing various technical infrastructures and equipments associated to contemporary art practices.

Art and Society is interrelated and inter-dependant. Life or society without art is unimaginable. A society becomes visually rich and beautiful with art and artifacts created by the artists. An artist is also a product of the society where he or she lives in. An artist has the capacity to transform the society, visually or otherwise - with his art works. People enjoy a work of art and it enriches their lives. Sometimes artists become social activists – they work to change the society through their art works.

I think, like in every other discipline in society, art and artists are also not out of ‘politics’. Various forms of politics exists art scene. There are groups and groupism. I is not unknown to us that Curator of Museums, Director of Galleries, Art Critics, Art Writers get involved in certain type of politics relating to appreciation of art works, selection of art works, awards or publications etc. At this time of globalization and growth of the international art market - such politics has become inevitable – though not desirable. Besides, we know many of the artists individually believes in socio-political ideologies and do practice art for such purposes.

We know about 20 years back art was not so much in the midst of the market, hence artists were also not concerned about market and money. At present in the changed situation when art is so much in the midst of the newly grown art market, I am sure it cannot stay without effecting art and creativity at large. A part of art works are being created as commodity and so many galleries and auction houses have come up within the last few years. This was not new in the West, but now it has become a reality in India. Many artists have become solvents and few have become rich, of course it has also surely helped them to earn enough for a decent living, until now which was a dream for them.. Moreover, creative artists are now capable of spending more for their studio activities. Fortunately, serious artists are quite aware of this changed situation and could guard themselves against the market pressure to continue their creative activities sincerely. It is true that the new growth of art market has effected the younger generation of artists more. But we should not forget that the Western art scene is thriving through out the last 100 years or so in the midst of such an art market. May be our poverty makes a difference.

I must confess, all the above issues surely effected me and my art work directly or indirectly. However, like my fellow artist friends, I have my personal understanding and decision to deal with all matters related to my art and creativity.

• How does your art relate to reality?

Ans: ‘Reality’ is always a relative term/word. What is real to me may not be real to others. It is more subjective than objective.

I being a trained artist have been able to paint or draw almost ‘real’ (realistic) images of people and objects. At the same time, I think, I have been able to infuse a wider sense of ‘reality’ in my work – which relates to my reason –unreason, philosophy, idea and emotion etc.

• What is your conception of modernity? In the world? In India? How do you see the relation between art and modernity? Indian art and modernity? Your own work and modernity?

Ans: ‘Modernity’ is also a relative term. It is variable due to change of time and location or one’s cultural location and time. For me anything newly created, invented, in relation to the past, during recent time is modern. Such works of art may or may not have any relation to any work of art being done or already done by others or created by other cultures. In any circumstances it needs to be “creative”.

Modernism never accepts anything unquestionably. It is subversive to existing schools, idioms, structure or images, whether Indian or Western.

In the contemporary world art scene, the linear growth of art movements does not exist any more. At present, there are hundreds of branches of new arts spreading their wings to every direction and mediums have no barrier, sometimes without keeping any historical relation to others. Art also, for the same reason, has lost or is losing its centralization of activity, moving to any part of the world wherever sincere creative act practices are taking place. Recently the information technology, TV, Internet have brought the art and cultures of different societies nearer to each other. More interactions are taking place. In fact at this time, non-conventional art practices, unknown images of art or fresh elements found in remote corners are being explored to create significant ‘modern’ works of art. As such, I think it is possible that the Western hemisphere, including Europe may gradually loose its position in the future as the center of “ modernism” or “ modern art.”

I think that contemporary India, with all its problems, casteism, racial violence, poverty etc is an ideal place for a creative artist to explore and make new and unique works of art of recent times. May we also call them “Modern”? Or not?

I think my personal artwork is an outcome of my ideas and understanding of life. I consider them original and sincere, born out of may life, environment and my culture. In fact I feel we need to be more concerned for becoming ‘creative’ than to become so called ‘modern.’

• What do you see as the relation between “high” and “low” art? How do you see its course historically? What do you think the relation is today? In India? In the world? What do you think of the rise of visual culture/visual studies departments and journals?

Ans: Historically, there is a division in arts as ‘high’ & ‘low’ – which I think is based on certain divisions in the society itself. Privileged upper class and educated people, who also dominated the society, have the chance to develop their art systematically – where as folk artists, poor aboriginal art workers expressed themselves passionately with all their creativeness within their social & economical limitations. I recently saw some African wooden sculptures and found them extra ordinary comparable to any great art work and enjoyed them immensely. So, how con we ignore these art works as ‘low’ art? In India too, it is same as many of the tribal and folk arts are truly artistic & pure works of art. Their status as artwork should be reassessed.

All contemporary art activities are basically dependant and are related to the economic development of the society. I think for the last few years there is a conscious development of the so called visual culture in India. More galleries have come up, more publication are made and departments of visual arts studies and the art journals are much more active. But, I feel they are yet to create and infuse a right sense of direction to the art scene.

• What art of the twentieth century do you think will remain in the public consciousness at the end of the twenty-first century? Why? What do you see as the emerging trends in contemporary art in India? In the world?

Ans: I think only those art works which excels and which have the basic substantial elements of ‘arts’ recognized by human sensibilities - will remain. Anything, which is superfluous, insensitive and false, will be eliminated.

In India recently in contemporary art activities, in this age of globalization and information technology, many interactions are taking place among cultures of East and West. Eclecticism always enriches the art & culture of any society, but one needs to be sincere and not superficial to absorb what is important for one to grow positively. An artist being, in India, is fortunate to be in such a place, which has enormously rich visual elements and complex, social situations to explore for his creative activities. We should be aware of those elements and be involved with great passion and sincerity. We may think to create something new, original to contribute to the art world. We in India have the potentiality to do and create such unique works of art, which no other people of the world are in a position to do so. A total surrender of our culture & artistic potentialities to the so called contemporary art of the Western world without questioning their validity, with only kill such possibilities and dilute our potentialities. It is heartening to find that many of our young artists are already being aware of this fact - and moving with a right sense of direction.

The world art does not only mean western art as we normally think. It should encompass the entire art activities happening around the world. It is good to find that much activities are going on in the world art scene today. New experiments and creativeness open to various mediums and ideas are taking place. Biennale’s and Triennale’s are being organized in various countries, books on artists are being published systematically to project art works and artists for publicity and establishment - though many of them, except few significant ones, may not remain valid after lapse of time.

• What, according to you, are the three most pressing problems facing India today?

Ans: a) Undisciplined infrastructures of the Govts. and rampant corruption in every level.
b) Undernourished, underdeveloped (uneducated) unproductive large population.
c) Inefficient leadership without having any ideology, values, vision and statesmanship.

• What, according to you, are the three most pressing problems in the world today?

Ans: Lack of humanity and trust in world relationships among various countries – while market economy has become essentially the only dominating factor in society.
a) Prevailing disparity among rich and poor nations. Lack of knowledge and respect by one nation/culture/religion of other cultures or religions.
b) World Power-games.

• What, according to you, are the three most pressing problems in the artworld today? In India? In the world?

Ans: In India:
a) Lack of uniformly developed art infrastructure in all parts of India due to economic reasons.
b) Artists dependence on market for livelihood (which dilutes creativity).
c) Lack of art education in India. Lack of good publications on art/contemporary art.

In the World:
a) Lack of understanding, right communication and reciprocal appreciation of art and culture of different part of the world-due to the pressure of market economy.
b) Natural Domination by the economically developed countries in the art scene for the market and business.
c) An undesirable art lobby – operating world-wide/ in the west, which is due to the rise of market economy, consisting of museum directors, gallery owners, art critics, and art publishers – and those who dominate the art scene.

• What type of art criticism do you like? Why?

Ans: Analytical positive criticism is important for healthy growth of art scene.

• Who are some of your favorite artists? Why? How do they affect your art?

Ans: There are many art works/ artists whom I like – but they may not have affected my works. It is difficult to name them all. My favorites are Indian Sculptures, and Asyrian Sculptures- and among known Western Artists: Giacometti, Cezzane, Paul Klee, Henri Rousseau, Rembrandt, Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kieffer and Rabindranath Tagore and Ram Kinker Baij among Indians.

• Who are some of your favorite writers of fiction and nonfiction? How do they affect your art?

Ans: I can mention few names. Most Bengali writers like Jibanananda Das, Rabindranath Tagore, Manik Bandhyopadhyay, Bibhuti Bhushan Bandhyopadhyay, Sakti Chattopadhyay. Among outsiders: Albert Camus, Pablo Neruda, Maupassant, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Shakespeare, G. Garcia Marquez and many others.

• Are there activities other than art that you pursue? How does this affect your art?

Ans: I write poetry and also on art and social issues. I teach art and am currently involved in the establishment of an Art Center in Shantiniketan.

Yes all work I do, has effect on my artwork directly or indirectly.

• Can you identify a single unified way you adopt to view the world?

Ans: At one time, everything in this world will perish or be transformed. There is a forceful existence of a power unknown to us – rooted in nature – in this universe – which ultimately has a supreme manifestation over everything, we know. The whole civilization, the scheme of our lives, arts – everything becomes helpless – ‘insignificant’. In our lives, in arts - we may manifest this eternal spirit of life and existence. And, when it is truly manifested, our arts become lively.

I do not believe in difference among people, races and religions. They are actually the result of our ignorance of the reality or totality of Life and the Universe.