Conflict and Harmony - Man in Nature
Trained in Kolkata as an artist, Partho Chatterjee imbibed certain figurative values of contemporary art in Bengal of the sixties and seventies. No less strong was another influence hovering at home as he grew up watching his artist-father, Maniklal Chatterjee, at work - a powerful artist in the style of the Bengal School. But to his credit he has outgrown these early influences without uprooting himself from the soil.
Exhibiting since the early nineties Chatterjee has gradually forged a style, susceptible enough to the templates of image-making that are currently much in vogue. With his well-honed skills in the basics of figurative idiom, he deftly handles neatly defined forms and figures of semantic or abstract intent to turn out highly engaging mixed-media images of chiselled finesse. In each frame he creates a tidily structured colour field in a varied palette of expressive shades made crisp with a screen of meticulously patterned textures—a densely woven hairy mesh lending to the picture a finely tuned tonal guide to its meaning. In some of them the surface planes have geometric configurations, designed to impact an abstraction going beyond the passive visual response. In others the pictorial space is washed in graded tones to evoke a placid feel of peace and harmony.
Forms and figures taken from nature – birds in flight, falling leaves, floating clouds, potted plants, a grasshopper with its long jagged feet and slick antenna, even regular landscapes with open spaces, an evening sky with a crescent moon, and in some instances a city skyline, treeless townscapes, dust-filled urban air or contours of industrial complex, provide the image content. A human face, in frontal or profile figuration, dominates the pictorial space in most of the frames. The pictorial syntax is rich in visually pleasing design values. If we add to this the overall surface finish of tranquil smoothness, the tidy lineal evocation of each motif and a palette of cool-to-warm tonal range, we can trace the remnants of Chatterjee’s early influences - his roots in the Bengal art of figurative traditions.
Nevertheless, the pictorial components devoid of apparent semantic interlink and a figurative idiom purged of any narrative outlook, render these images very much contemporary in values and vocabulary. Moreover, they address, even though obliquely, one of the major concerns of the day, namely the environment. In general, the images comprise visual details emblematic of a complex environmental reality in which man and nature interface in diverse shades of conflict and harmony. Even those titled still life, sport a richly complex formal arrangement of spaces and colours with central motifs, plants or flowers, emblematizing nature and environment.
November 2010, Kolkata