Ashok Bhowmick finds freedom in the binary world of imagination through art

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Artists are driven by the compulsion to create, even those without formal training. And not all succeed in the cutthroat world of galleries and auctions. When the vicissitudes of life did not allow Ashok Bhowmick to go to art school, he found a way to homeschool himself by closely following the senior artists of the era and visiting local libraries to devour whatever literature he could find on the subject.

His first solo exhibition of paintings was in 1974 while he was studying botany at Kanpur, where he spent most of his formative years. Two of the works were selected for display at UP State’s annual Lalit Kala Akademi exhibition.

“It was then that my painting entered the professional field. I never thought of it as a way to make money. It wasn’t until 2004 that I finally quit my job and chose painting as my only profession,” says Bhowmick, who lives in Gurugram.

No less than 33 of his most definitive works created during his five-decade career were recently featured in the solo exhibition “Made in the Shade – the inimitable art of Ashok Bhowmick”, held at the Dhoomimal Gallery in Delhi.

The artist is fluent in cross-hatching – the repetitive drawing of lines at certain angles to create the desired effect. It is Bhowmick’s skillful use of a dense mesh of lines to play with light and shadow on the canvases that has earned him the distinctive badge as a master of this technique.

For the first 22 years of his career, he painted exclusively in monochrome, mostly black and white, sometimes with sepia tints. After 2002 his color palette became brighter, but his hatched figures set against solid backgrounds continued.

Bhowmick’s work is primarily figurative, and this new collection is no different, featuring humans and animals in a range of vibrant colors. If the artist refuses to call the exhibition a “retrospective”, he recognizes that it represents two opposite poles of his career.

“I believe that at both ends one can see the changes that have taken place in my understanding of art, its purpose and the influences of the changing world around me. Over the years, I have also learned the limits of art,” he says.

It is by exploring the limits that the spirit of an artist becomes free. Bhowmick finds his own freedom in the binary world of imagination.

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