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Understanding Anandajit Ray’s pictorial language, full of wit and irony
Harping on his theme of urban conflict, Anandajit Ray’s works indulge into the concurrent exploration of the ludicrous and the horrific and the dreary and the phantasmal where the violence, pain and claustrophobia associated with urban conflict obliterate the humane element.

The social realm, which comes into being in his works, is invariably one of discord. The protagonist conveys the malaise of the distraught and fragmented times we happen to live in, arising out of complexities very much part of our psychological, personal and public spaces.

In his acclaimed series, titled ‘Warpaint and an Artist’, the artist takes a plunge into ‘the depths of an amoral abyss’ where dynamics of urban conflict expunge the humane, as renowned art critic Ranjit Hoskote has mentioned: “Caught between the devil and the deep sea, his protagonist is victim to the 20th century malaise of living on the edge, where an unrelenting war wages in a ‘real’ world of science-fiction. In fact, the epic wars are now so palpable, they confront you everyday.”

A sense of pain and sympathy needs to be at the core of the viewing of the sensitive artist’s thought-provoking works. The society, which builds and takes shape in his stunning story-crammed frames, proves to be a pathological experience. As the critic elaborates, “It’s a society reminiscent, in its eerie horror and endemic violence, of the scenario first elaborated in Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, 1962, and most recently revisited in Quentin Tarrantino’s Pulp Fiction, 1994. Indeed, Anandjit Ray’s images put us in mind of J G Ballard’s description of the 1981 classic of punk Gothic, George Miller’s Mad Max 2.”

This artist, with an acute and ever-alive social consciousness, opts to work in proscribed formats. Keen on experimentation, his expanding oeuvre recall genres as diverse as the curious comic strip and mystical miniature. He laboriously generates this hybrid form, ultimately projecting on areas of adolescence – akin to avenues of escape from a potentially dreary and unwelcome reality and desires materialized through the popular media.

Born in 1965 in Kolkata, Anandjit Ray completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts in Painting from M. S. University, Baroda in 1989 and 1991 respectively. Among his selected solo exhibitions are ‘I Fear, I Believe, I Desire’, Gallery Espace, New Delhi (2007); ‘For The Future XI’, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (2004); ‘Fractured’, Gallery Espace (2003); 2000 Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai; ‘S.M.T.W.T.F.S’, Nazar Art Gallery, Baroda (1999), among others.

His selected group exhibitions include shows ‘KAAM’ Arts India, New York (2005); Gallerie 88, Kolkata (2003); ‘New Indian Art: Home-Street-Shrine-Bazaar-Museum’, Manchester Art Gallery, London (2002); ‘Kapital and Karma’, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2002); and ‘Private Languages’, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai (1997). He has illustrated a book of short stories ‘Wild Fire’ by Bonophol (Seagull Publications), and is also the recipient of the ‘Sankriti Award’ by Sanskriti Prathishthan in 1998.

The core of his art practice is minute observation. For Anandjit Ray, creation is sifting through ideas at emotive level, with the image and the theme acquiring prime focus in his mind, the visual logic generating a thought process, rather than literal readability. He is engaged in a constant exploration of contrasting forces and tendencies - the ridiculous, the horrific, the mundane and the phantasmal.

The seduction coupled with intimacy offered by these themes draws the artist inwards, though he terms himself a 'surface painter', subscribing to a position san any judgment. Incidents of illogical violence scattered over the surface therefore undergo a metamorphosis into decorative detailing, identifying with our immediate and imagined realm. A perfect example of this is his series of four ice-cream sticks, from his solo show 'Syrup' - each of a different flavor and each one providing an incitement to a different dream, graphically described in iridescent watercolors.