Born in 1939 in Faridpur, Bengal, Jogen Chowdhury studied at the Government College of Art and Crafts, Kolkata, from 1955-60, followed by a stint at L’Ecole Nationale Superior des Beax-Arts, Paris, in 1965-57 on a French Government Scholarship.
During his college days, Chowdhury took part in leftist literary circles, the members of which dismissed Rabindranath Tagore as a bourgeoisie and became interested in the works of Russian authors. But by and large, Chowdhury kept himself apart from cultural movements: though a friend of the members of the Hungry Generation, his imagery was drawn from his cultural background more than his intellectual milieu.
Jogen Chowdhury is known for his ability to successfully marry traditional imagery with the zeitgeist of contemporary painting, in a skillful blend of an urbane self-awareness and a highly localized Bengali influence. His early works show an attention to figuration that carries through in his current pieces. In an interview, Chowdhury commented that, in his early works, “the space projected a simple iconic presence. A spatial sequence was worked out but the space was not complex. The background seemed to vanish.” Anshuman Dasgupta describes these works as more iconic and more dramatized; per contra, Chowdhury describes his later works as “now more personalized and subtle”.
Speaking on contemporary art, Chowdhury maintains the necessity of a uniquely Indian approach to art, as opposed to the blind aping of Western trends, “To be global you do not have to do something that is imitative of America, Australia or England. It has to have an authenticity, which is not what blind imitation allows for.”
His recent solo exhibitions include ‘A Calligraphy of Touch and Gaze’, presented by Kalakriti Art Gallery at ICIA, Mumbai, in 2008; and ‘Abahoman: Flowing Life’ at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, in 2007. Chowdhury has also had solo exhibitions at Gajah Gallery, Singapore; Gallerie Foundation for Indian Artists, Amsterdam; and the Fine Art Resource, Berlin.
In 1966, Chowdhury was awarded the Prix le France de la Jeune Peinture in Paris, and, in 1986, received an award at the Second Biennale of Havana, Cuba. He was presented the Kalidas Sanman by the Government of Madhya Pradesh in 2001.