We always carry our past with us: Artist Anjan Modak

He starts the conversation with a reference to his parents who started off as masons in their early life. “When you grow up surrounded by the working class, their shadows are bound to walk with you, no matter where you go. Frankly, if I have to sum up inspiration in one line, it would be the lives of workers and labourers,” says artist Anjan Modak whose latest exhibition ‘Fragmented Life’ is being hosted online by Emami Art (till August 31).

Stressing that seeing the condition in face of the lockdown, and how they were left to fend for themselves, shook him deeply enough to work on ‘Fragmented Life’, the Kolkata-based artist who studied painting at Rabindra Baharati University, adds, “One just can’t get over the visuals of thousands of migrants walking across state borders. I was absolutely numb, and this series of paintings aims to document the suffering of those people.”

With a series of small-sized circular-format paintings which bring forth not just the physical turmoil of the labourers, but also their sheer helplessness, the series of paintings can be seen as part of the artist’s large body of works that represents the life of the working class. Through ‘Fragmented Life’, one can easily decipher his command over narrative figuration. The series reveals his aesthetics of everyday life, connecting memories and emotions to the social and political forces shaping the life of the society.

Deriving from several visual traditions including surrealism, puppetry and biology textbook illustrations, one notices that the artist is not merely interested in depicting the life of the downtrodden, but in fact aims to bring forth multiple layers.

Modak, who is now set to portray life during home quarantine says it is about common man’s everyday struggle and dreams to build a better life that have always fascinated him. “There is this non-stop adjustment they have to do — something which forces me to go back to the theme repeatedly.”

The artist, who also works with brick dust and clay besides paint with paper and watercolour says he has been missing showing his works in a physical space. “Life has suddenly halted, losing its natural movement and rhythm, something which reflects in my latest work too. However, it would be unfair to simply dismiss the online shows being held during the lockdown. Imagine if there was a complete lull during this period? Art enthusiasts have definitely been able to access enough new work during this period,” says Modak.