Strokes of Resistance

Somnath Hore drew his heroes from the margins of society

Written by Dipanita Nath | Published: December 5, 2013 5:16 am

The Bengal Famine of 1943,which killed an estimated three million people,also left its mark on artists of the era. Among them was Chittoprasad Bhattacharya,whose artwork would become epic documents of the event. Somnath Hore,who was 22 at the time,learnt from Bhattacharya,before making his own way around Chittagong (now in Bangladesh) to cover the famine. In 1946,Hore found himself at the vortex of another historical event,the Tebhaga Movement,in which peasants rose up against the landlords — the first such instance in Indian history. Between the pain and suffering of the Bengal Famine and the fire and fury of Tebhaga,Hore’s art was aligned forever with the masses who occupy the margins of the socioeconomic spectrum. An exhibition of his work at Art Heritage shows as much.

The artist died in 2006 and the displays,from the collection of Chandana Hore,the artist’s daughter,provide a glimpse of several stages of his career. There are drawings from 1999,lithographs from 1963-68 and watercolours from 1964 and 65. The works are minimal and nuanced,with emaciated human figures depicted in their life-activities. “My father believed that those who are suffering,will unite and resist to alleviate oppression,” says Chandana. The men and women in Hore’s works slouch,bend over,transport heavy loads or simply wait. They have protruding rib cages,a symbol of destitution. Their bodies tell their own stories. The only accoutrement is an image of an animal,usually a dog. In a lithograph,man and dog sit waiting. This synergy between the oppressed and their stray pets provides optimism against the somber imagery.

The exhibition does not include Hore’s sculptures but a short film on him plays on loop in the gallery basement,allowing visitors to watch the artist as he crafts and talks.

The show is on at Art Heritage till December 20. Contact: 23719470

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