Srijon Chowdhury’s Mythic Realism

Originally printed in Issue 20
Text by Darby Milbrath

Srijon Chowdhury, Lilith Smelling a Rose, 2019, Oil on linen, 36 x 24″, Anat Ebgi

Originally printed in Issue 20

In the beginning of the fairytale film Sleeping Beauty, a storybook, bejeweled with colourful gemstones and engraved with twisted vines, opens to reveal an illustrated folk tale. A candle rests beside the golden book, like the Book of Revelations, illuminating it with a soft glowing light. A scene comes to mind which haunted me as a child: Rose, the princess, is left alone in the castle tower. She becomes transfixed under the spell of evil and is lead up a dark, arched stairwell, enchanted by a glowing orb of green light. She pricks her finger on a cursed spindle of a spinning wheel and falls into a deep sleep.

The dark images and symbols of Sleeping Beauty remind me of Srijon Chowdhury’s paintings. Srijon is illustrating his own story, one that blurs fairytale fantasy and mythology with realism. His paintings are a spiritual practice, a way of transcending the anxieties of our time, the struggle of good and evil and the nightmarish reality of our apocalyptic world. Repeated symbols and colours that align with certain spiritual lexicon saturate the work with prophetic details. This re-taking-up of symbolism is a way for him to consider the present moment as part of already-told histories, specifically his own. There is a great ceremonial feeling in the near-religious paintings of his girlfriend and newborns. They are often painted alongside or encircled by mystical and protective symbols— gates, hands, briar and rose brambles, stained glass, white horses, arches, and enchanted flowers—as a way of warding off impending doom.

In the exhibition text for his Paris show, Before Dreams, Srijon wrote, “I was alive today, and so was my baby, and we watched the flowers glow. Today is always the best day. When tomorrow doesn’t come, our hands will be enfolded and the garden will grow around us.”

Srijon Chowdhury, Red Morning Glory, Red Knife, 2019, Oil on linen, 24 x 18″, Anat Ebgi

Mother and Child, Oil on Linen, 20×16 inches, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and Antoine Levi, Paris. Photographer: Mario Gallucci.

White Glowing Morning Glory, Oil on Linen, 16×12 inches, 2018. Courtesy the Artist and Antoine Levi, Paris, Photographer: Aurélien Mole.

Flowers, oil on linen, 40×30 inches, 2018. Courtesy the Artist and Foxy Production, New York. Photographer: Mario Gallucci

Red vine, oil on linen, 20×16 inches, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and Antoine Levi, Paris,Photographer: Mario Gallucci

See this story in print in Issue 20