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Artist Profile1
Painter Jagannath Mohapatra’s visual realm
Jagannath Mohapatra is known for his intense visual narrations, based on his experiences and perceptions of sensitive issues that disturb him as an artist and as an individual. For instance, several of his creations revolve around the emotional realm of child laborers who are forced to toil for livelihood.

Touched and bemused by their industrious nature, he has depicted a realistic portrayal of their struggle for survival under trying circumstances. The artist has used construction sites and architectural backdrops as a backdrop in some works to convey his concerns about their fractured future. The paintings focus on their innocent realm. Apart from highlighting their hardship, he focuses on their inherent innocence in the face of adversities and vicissitudes of life.

Jagannath Mohapatra follows his inner instinct, and remains faithful to his style and subject instead of resorting to gimmicks in his works. This is probably why he has managed to hold the attention of art critics and connoisseurs in spite of his maintaining a low-profile.

His paintings make the viewers pause and ponder over the fact that even as our progressive nation, clamouring for a superpower tag, rightly boasts of its monumental achievements on eve of the completion of sixty years of freedom, there are harsh realities of our socio-political existence that cannot be ignored. He puts forward his views through his paintings, but leaves it to the viewers to draw their own conclusions.

A student of history, Jagannath Mohapatra chooses painterly themes that are contemporary in context. This sensitive and socially conscious painter creates thought-provoking works that act like a mirror, and make the viewers confront the harsh realities of life.

The artist, born in 1969 at Bhadrak, Orissa, completed his B.F.A. in 1999 from Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan, Visva Bharati University, and M.F.A (2001) from M.S University, Baroda. He has done his B.A. (History) from Utkal University, and has also studied music. In a short span of time, he has gained in prominence, resulting in a string of solos and group show participations at leading art galleries like Birla Academy, Kolkata; Priyasri Art Gallery, Mumbai; Sarjan Art Gallery, Baroda; Gallery Kaleidoscope, Baroda; ABS Bayer Gallery, Baroda; Chitrakoot Art Gallery, Kolkata; Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai; Son Et Lumiere gallery, Mumbai, and Nazar Art Gallery, Baroda. An online show of his works, titled ‘The City lost its innocence’, was hosted by The Arts Trust a few years ago.

He has won the national scholarship and merit scholarship from Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati apart from Nandlal Bose scholarship and Krishna Reddy scholarship. His work also forms part of several leading art collections. He has participated in many art camps and workshops such as printmaking workshops by Japanese Water Color Prosses and by Canada Printmakers.

His visual realm is invariably linked to the realities of life. Providing an insight into his works, senior artist K. G. Subramanyan has mentioned: “He (Jagannath Mohapatra) belongs to the generation of young painters who ground their visuals on the unreality of the realistic image that they encounter in billboards and hoardings, in trade journals and television commercials, or at least, a transformed, jazzed up, over-stated reality, now cloyingly romantic, now tantalizingly intriguing.

“Some of them doctor these images with arresting juxtapositions or incongruous insets and envelope them with a covering of cynicism or a critical comment. Jagannath Mohapatra is one of them. However, his paintings neither have a cynical tone nor have any open critical content. His paintings are mostly soaked in the dissembling juiciness of this second-line reality.”

Even though he is pained by their plight, the artist thinks that the child labourers cannot be forced out of their jobs, taxing though they are, unless other means of survival are provided to them. He explains, “These children have no option but to take up such tasks for earning their livelihood. It is a collective responsibility of society to ensure that they lead a respectable life.”

The artist also underlines the fact that children today, regardless of their status and background, are under immense pressure to succeed at any cost. In a way, he points to a broader, bigger social problem, arising out of extreme expectations and pressures of life that do not spare even the children. They pass a subtle message, but do not indulge in sloganeering.