Growing up amidst the dismal realities of the Bengal famine and the Naxalite movement in West Bengal, artist Rabin Mondal was not inspired by his environment as much as he was "troubled".
As a result, most of his modern artwork reflects a deep sense of suffering, and a decaying society. A set of similar themes run across his artwork that will be showcased as part of his retrospective at the Delhi Art Gallery. Titled Kingdom Of Exile, the exhibition might be a slight disappointment for those looking for pretty pictures or all things cheerful.
Queen; acrylic on paper, 1989 (L). Untitled, oil on paper, 1980 (R).
Kishore Singh, head of exhibitions at Delhi Art Gallery, who has written about the artist's life and work extensively, throws light on his background. "Mondal grew up in Kolkata's industrial suburb, Howrah, where factories, labour troubles, brothels and bars culminated in a dystopian world. For years, he witnessed penury and the hopelessness of society and man. This acted as a critical catalyst in his work."
The self-taught artist took to painting at the early age of 12, when he was forced to stay indoors due to a knee injury. During the '60s and the '70s, Mondal also joined the Communist party, and has been a keen follower of the leftist ideology. On the art front, he, along with several others, formed Calcutta Painters, an association for modern artists, around the same time.
Tryst With Destiny; pen and ink on paper, 1970 (L). Man Acting As King; oil on canvas, 1982 (R).
The octogenarian artist looks back at his seven-decade-long career, and says, "Since the time I was injured and looked out of my window at the suffering of people, till now, I have remained true to the context of my art. The despicable lack of morality and the fall of mankind has been my subject."
Kingdom Of Exile is on from July 18 to September 18, at Delhi Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, from 11 am to 7 pm.