Mythological Narratives

A captivating exploration of Eternal Existence, the 5th solo art exhibition by Sourav Chowdhury

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?

I started painting at a very young age, probably when I was 4 or 5. My journey started then and continues to this day. My father, a doctor, has always influenced and supported me in my artistic journey, backing me in every situation at every part of my life. My whole family, in fact, has been very supportive of my career as an artist.

Tell us about the conceptualisation of Eternal Existence.

‘Eternal Existence’ is the culmination of several of my interests – art, mythology, and time travel, all aggregated under one concept. You see, every artist wants to have something that is unique; something that characterises their personality, setting them apart from others. In 2008, during my final year at university, while I was still searching for this one calling of mine, I was deeply invested in unfolding the historical and cultural significance of mythologies around the world. That’s when I first explored the idea of ‘Eternal Existence’ to combine mythologies around the world with our own folk motifs. As mythologies date back centuries, I used my artwork as a medium to ‘travel’ through time.

What emotions are you trying to convey through Eternal Existence?

‘Eternal Existence’ combines many of the ancient formats in paintings found throughout history with Bangladeshi folk themes and characters from common proverbs and phrases. Some art pieces carry the style of Egyptian hieroglyphics but tell the story of Bangladesh. Others imagine Bangladeshi folk culture in the Mughal or Mesopotamian era, sometimes going as far back as cave paintings. There is an undertone of humour in my imaginary characterisation – an attempt to make the bitterness of the world into something beautiful and uplifting. The common Bengali proverb, ‘Mosha marte kaman daga’ (to break a butterfly on a wheel), is visually literalised with a canon aiming at a mosquito stylised as Egyptian hieroglyphics.

A recurring character in your artwork is the owl. What significance does it hold for you?

I find the owl a fascinating creature. I find myself incorporating it in all of my art pieces and it has almost become a symbol that identifies my work. To me, the owl is a mysterious bird. Its nocturnal nature makes it elusive, and you have to put in the effort to witness one yourself.

“For over a decade, I have been transcending my artistic visions into my ongoing series ‘Eternal Existence’ that also resonates with imagination, with the utopian gesture coming from my inner self as an intrinsic contemplation of my own mind.”

Owls are depicted differently across various cultures. Some see it as a good omen; some see bad. But I depict the owl in a positive manner. It is a symbol of positive energy, power, and wisdom. In this solo exhibition, I ventured out from my traditional two-dimensional printmaking work to the three-dimensional plane and dedicated a sculpture of an owl made of scrap metal to the significance it holds for me.

What was the most rewarding aspect of hosting the exhibition?

One of the most rewarding aspects of this exhibition was the incredible engagement from the audience. Their interactions were truly remarkable. Each day, I was met with a huge crowd, and their involvement went beyond just taking selfies. They exhibited a genuine curiosity, asking insightful questions and seeking intricate details about the artwork. They were genuinely interested in my creative process and the techniques I employed. It was a humbling experience as people dedicated minutes, and sometimes even hours, discussing the pieces in the gallery. Their enthusiasm overwhelmed me, serving as a tremendous source of encouragement. This kind of response fuels my motivation to delve deeper into my work. The expectations have been set high, and there’s now a desire from everyone to witness more of my creations. I’m committed to meeting these expectations and am already working on new artwork to present to them in the near future.

Sourav Chowdhury