Metaphorical Paintings of Shovin Bhattacharjee


Shovin Bhattacharjee came into limelight as a promising young contemporary painter immediately after his first major solo show at Lalit Kala Akademi (New Delhi) in 2006.  Incidentally, all the works at this exhibition got sold out.  Shovin who was born and brought up in Shillong (Meghalaya) received his MFA degree in fine arts from Central University of Assam (Silchar) has also distinguished himself as a computer artist.  After getting a diploma in conservation techniques from National Research Laboratory for Cultural Antiquities (NRLC), Lucknow in 2004 Shovin settled down in Delhi as a professional artist and has never looked back since then.  He has held solo and group shows in India and abroad (South Korea, China, Bangladesh, Finland, and London).  Shovin has alsoparticipated in National Exhibitions (Lalit Kala Akademi), All India Exhibitions of Art (AIFACS) and various other state institutions and organizations.  His works are in the permanent collections of many well-known galleries including the Lalit Kala Akademi, National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi).

Shovin has a keen sense of design and an intuitive grasp of spatial organization whereby he is able to create a dramatic moment in his work.  Most works of Shovin are marked by a strong thematic content that relates to the impact of modern technology on our life and attitude.  The presentation of the theme is generally couched in a satirical mode that also brings out the artist’s sense of black humour.  Some of his works tellingly bring out the inanities involved in monotonous human aspirations particularly when the individual really does not “know” their significance nor their consequence.  Shovin invariably always makes use of a strong visual metaphor to convey his reflections on life and the attendant humorous side of it.  In his pictorial language, he often uses contrasting bright colours in conjunction with geometrical configuration of a labyrinth.  The painting on the theme of squirrels moving almost purposelessly up and down a paradoxical geometrical structure is a lucid example.  Each painting is built up meticulously by detailed planning, as it were, so as to get the focus on the underlying thematic content rather than the plastic qualities of the medium.  More than the medium, it is the message that seems important for the artist. 

The artist situates himself in the present day context which has so much to do with innovative technological devices in almost every sphere of life be that one’s dwellings unit or the nature of work culture.  Shovin creates the ambiance of paradox involved in community living on one hand and its impersonal ethos, on the other.  Like a curious naughty boy the artist climbs on these beehive like architectural structures and seeks to have a glimpse around from different levels of elevation as though to apprehend the feel of the anonymity of one’s existence.  Indeed, this is accentuated as the technique used in these works is based on new digital media art.

Shovin has over the years developed a style that is eminently suited to the powerful theme of alienation as it inflicts human society in the modern technology driven world.  More than the angst underlying such a situation the artist adds a sense of wry humour to his works. His method involves bringing into play the dimensional divergences in the figure-ground relationship.  Executed in the mode of super-realism his paintings lack any painterly frills as these works turn out to be a vehicle of direct and forceful communication of a stark message.  There is drama in these works though they are singularly bereft of any baneful sentimentality. His installation works too bring out the meaninglessness and monotony of the arid technology driven life. A telling comment on this socio-political theme is the watershed of Shovin’s creative output whether that is in his paintings, computerized photographs, or even installation works.

Ranjan Ghosh


About the Contributor

Ranjan K. Ghosh is an aesthetician, artist, critic and academic; has published several books on aesthetics and art; his papers have appeared in journals including The British Journal of Aesthetics, and The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (USA); has taught Philosophy at Delhi University and North Bengal University; has held several exhibitions of his drawings and paintings; is based in Delhi and writes regularly on art and philosophy; presently Chairman, ISAA (Interdisciplinary Society for Art & Aesthetics).


How describe what Shovin has done in his recent paintings? One way of putting it would be to say that he has razed the strict order of concrete blocks of high rises and such, to an absorbing mystery –perhaps a sci-fi one. His vast structures appear tumbling, as though in a quake, and yet they hold on. He would not let them topple. Much suburban built up spaces can be infinitely dull for those who have to spend their lives over there. With nature gone, animals and birds are forlorn. They almost go neurotic. Thus what the artist does to this modern day ambience—a completely man-made one –is naughty. He drives a point home, so as to humanize us by making the metros’ lordliness seem vulnerable to incalculable forces. The solidity of a reality is now shown prone to being merrily played with by factors beyond computation. In this way he produces suspense, the feel of absurdity, and even a bit of surreal terror.
What he tells us, or what he compels us to confront, is a situation with two impossible alternative expressions: this world cannot be a safe one, for how can God’s world look so crazy? And secondly, that the way in which we are accustomed to seeing the real world is either not true or not exclusively true. So that Shovin’s intent is to poke fun at an illusion. “Oh see, this world, even when supported by the immense authority of building sciences, by mathematics, by geometry, and indeed by the forms of our own minds, is a fooling. Ha ha-ha!
At any rate Shovin’s compositions are bounded at one extreme by the regular polyhedrons, the strenuous streometric forms, by spheres, by an infinite number of planes, by thermomorphic patterns, or also birds, canines, felines, fish, spectral human shapes etc. etc.
These patterns can transform themselves into squares, or they dissolve into waves, losing their identities. There are successive transformations. A universe in flux, standing in a state of uncertainty. It is, as it were, every detail can metamorphose into oddity.
So such are the artist’s animate as also inanimate personae. He gives us hints of the situation, deadpan. A wonky world, but it holds valuable lessons as much as it is a visual delight “Do not be lazy, get to know that all things can change their forms”. So he seems to imply.
This same trace of mockery is meant really to evoke certain humility in our life responses. He is toying with the old problem of true and false.
The work therefore instantly demolishes our certainties, or things that we know only from the outside.
To repeat, this art tries to wake us up to the basic strangeness impending behind taken for granted monolith structures, whether grand buildings or gross dogmas. The only sound axiom being that there are other truths behind the one truth. If you do not pay heed to this, you may be brushed aside by events.
So, if on one plane, this work offers pleasure and amusement, on another it is serious business.
Included in this exhibition are also the artist’s digital prints, as those based on India’s ancient caves. These are sober, exacting recreations of a world now gone away. But what a job he has done with his classical structure in pure white! Here we observe the artist become an architect or a landscape choreographer. He does all these digitals not lightly but in good faith, in keeping with the spirit of art.


Keshav  Malik
Poet & Art Critic