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Robin Mondal

ROBIN MONDAL : "For me, art is an expression of my inner most self. This is the only medium I know. With my brush, oils, pencil and charcoal, I portray emotions. And before I know it, I am transported into another world. I gradually find my canvas coming alive.” Rabin Mondal was born in 1932, in Kolkata, in a poor government official's family. He graduated with Diploma in Fine Arts from the Vidyasagar Art School.His works exploit the grotesque to express inner turmoil and human struggles. His feeling towards his environment has been rather queer. Perhaps the milieu in which he spent his formative years has something to do with it. Mondal grew up in a populous industrial town of Howrah, near Kolkata. "I know the big city across the Ganga intimately," he says. "In the dark alleys of the city, nightmarish poverty stared one in the face. I saw the poorest of the poor and the affluent live within a stone throw away form each other. It was tragic to watch some lying untreated, while those who could afford it continued to spend money on even a dead man.” The industrial belt of Howrah, with its inherent tendency towards violence, anguish and suffering influenced him deeply, and found its way into his works. So did ugly street battles fought by political parties. Mondal discovered that his artistic temperament was out of keeping with the hostile environment and situation. Besides a debilitating knee injury in his childhood created a sense of isolation in the artist, which also finds expression in his canvas. He says what saved him from sheer madness was his talent in art. In 1949, he joined the Vidyasagar College of Art in Kolkata. At that time, a festival of French artists was being held in the city. It exposed him to the works of French modernist artists. Prior to this, he had no exposure to the international art world. He was only familiar with different schools of Indian art, particularly the Bengal school. As a young painter, Mondal was attracted by Jamini Roy's folk style and Rabindranath Tagore's disquieting paintings and drawings. But the show by French artists was virtually a turning point in his artistic career. "This was like opening a window to an astounding, astonishing, unsuspected world," he says. This encounter with avant-garde Western art helped him to later incorporate elements from it in his own work. His works were first displayed in 1955, as part of a group exhibition along with other leading artists of Bengal school. He held his first solo exhibition in 1961 at the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata. Mondal's works are mainly figurative. He paints in bold strokes and creates tableaux, whose themes are universal. The faces of his figures stare at you out of the canvas, strange and pensive, but also strong and defiant. Not yet beaten, surviving by sheer force of spirit. He mostly uses dense pigments in blacks and reds, with only occasional moss green and turquoise colors seeping through. For someone who hates all forms of pretentiousness, he has done a series of painting on queens and empresses. "Though they belong to the past, queens live in virtual isolation, and I feel sorry for them," he says. "It is this isolation that makes the queen, for me, a fascinating subject." One of the criticisms leveled against him is that his works are not pleasing to the eye. To which he replies, “Painting is for communication and not for decoration.” Samir Dutta, art critic of the Kolkata based Statesman newspaper, who has also made a TV documentary on him, says, "Mondal has evolved a signature of his own. His style over decades of defiant, bold experiments takes in imagery of primeval humans asserting themselves against great odds in a dense palette of both pure and mixed colors. Here you have formidable drama, a throbbing theatre of primitive that has its basis in remorseless jungle of today's urban existence.” Mondal has also been quite active with the avant-garde artist's organizations in the city. He was a Lalit Kala Akademi member from 1979-1982 that has also published a book of his drawings. It has taken Rabin Mondal decades to emerge as one of India's leading modern painters. Almost 70 years old now, he is based in Howrah, Kolkata, from where he began his artistic career. Education - 1959 Completed his Art Appreciation Course, Ashutosh Museum, Kolkata University, Kolkata. - 1956-58 Attended Evening Classes, Indian College of Art and Draughtmanship, Kolkata. - 1952 Bachelor of Commerce, Vidyasagar College, Kolkata University, Kolkata. Exhibitions Selected Solo Exhibitions - 1999 Alternative Art Gallery, Kolkata - 1993 Little Art Gallery, Kolkata - 1993 Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai - 1991 L.T.G. Art Gallery, New Delhi - 1990 Cymroza Art Gallery, Mumbai - 1989 Taj Art Gallery, Mumbai - 1987 Art Heritage, New Delhi - 1987 Chitrakoot Art Gallery, Kolkata - 1984 Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata - 1983 Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi Selected Group Exhibitions - 2009 'The Root of Everything', Gallery Mementos, Bangalore - 2008 'Frame Figure Field: 20th Century Modern and Contemporary Indian Art', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi - 2007 'Still Life: Adaptation in 20th Century Indian Art', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi - 2006 'The Naked Line: Drawings by 12 Artists', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi - 2002 The Gallery Chemould, Kolkata - 2002 Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata - 2002 Osian’s Exhibition and Auction, Mumbai - 2001 Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata - 2001 Exhibition and Auction at Art for Heart’s Sake, Mumbai - 2000 The Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata - 1999 The Alternative Art Gallery, Kolkata - 1998 ‘10th Anniversary Exhibition of Contemporary Painters’, organized by the Centre Art Gallery, Kolkata - 1998 Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai Participations - 2009 Annual Exhibition, La-Mere, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Culture, Kolkata - 2005 'Manifestations III', organized by Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi at Nehru Centre, Mumbai and Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi - 2004 'Manifestations II', organized by Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai and Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi - 2003 'Manifestations I', organized by Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi at World Trade Centre, Mumbai and Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi - 1998 '10th Anniversary of Calcutta Painters', Kolkata Honours and Awards - 2001 Abanindranath Puraskar, awarded by the Department of Information and Culture, Government of West Bengal, Kolkata - 1996 ‘Eminent Painter’, All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), New Delhi

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