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Artist Profile1
Deciphering Prajjwal Choudhury’s art practice
The bewildering Banyan tree acts as the focal point of a recent major international show at Vienna’s Essl Museum. It’s a mystical metaphor that symbolizes India’s creative awakening.

‘India Awakens: Under the Banyan Tree’, according to curator Alka Pande, maps the innovative approach of emerging contemporary artists, appreciated for their prophetic and artistic qualities. One name that clearly stands out is Prajjwal Choudhury. His practice represents the dynamic contemporary currents and tendency that marks the thriving art scene of India, grabbing worldwide attention. Born in 1980, the young and talented artist from Kolkata did his B.V.A. (Bachelor of Visual Arts) from The Indian College of Arts & Draftsmenship, Rabindra Bharati University, followed by his M.V.A. from the Department of Printmaking, Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda.

Prajjwal Choudhury’s has been devoting his creative power to an intense exploration of the developments and themes of tomorrow. The medium he has chosen to put across his point underlines his unconventional practice that can defy the set notions and boundaries, to surprise the viewer. Its everyday matchboxes that he imprints with intriguing images of the works of several world-renowned artists, collated into a captivating collage. This exceptional mode of conveying his viewpoint exudes a realistic visual appeal, with a touch of wry humor, perplexing viewers. The idea is to make them pause and think on today’s undesirable pattern of recycling everything, including art.

Apparently, he is trying to convey that the works being showcased today have already been displayed in one form or the other, earlier and would again be there to see for us with some changes. His satirical approach and a sarcastic way of looking at the phenomenon through his peculiar medium is indeed unique and attention grabbing. For example, in ‘Who Will Be Next’, he collates the images by established artists acclaimed internationally - to suggest what you are seeing now will revisit you, albeit served in a different manner. The images are universally familiar, largely owing to their heavy dissemination in today’s mechanical age.

Apart from ‘India Awakens’ in Klosterneuburg (2010); other significant shows he has featured in are at the 12th Harmony Art Show (2006); International Print Biennale, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal (2005);; 77th All India Art Exhibition (AIFACS) at New Delhi in 2004, apart from a group exhibition at M.S.U, Baroda, 69th All India Art Exhibition at Academy of Fine Arts (Kolkata), and 47th National Exhibition of Art in the same year. Among other shows are 18th All India Art Exhibition, Nagpur (2003); Two Men Show at Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata (2002), also having featured in a group show at the academy and the 3rd Eastern region Art Exhibition, Kolkata.

The artist’s socially sensitive oeuvre is primarily marked by its harking back to a particular concern. He touches upon the theme of a capitalist society driven by a consumerist attitude. It seems as if he is protesting the way we deploy and easily discard everyday objects. Ubiquitous items like bottles and matchboxes that form the core of his creative process carry little value in our eyes. At another level, he is perhaps trying to underline our tendency of taking everyday objects for granted. Prajjwal Choudhury starts of his quest for the unusual from such ubiquitous objects like matchboxes to carve his captivating creations. His art moves beyond the confines of canvas or sculpture and rather attempts at framing within his aesthetic space, uncanny phrases and visual assortments of the byproducts of recycling.

For instance, his series ‘Drift’ at Project 88 in Mumbai (2008) had works, which were a mockery of the beauty that a consumerist attitude aspires for, in actuality. On the other hand, his work that formed part of 'Re-claim, Re-cite, Re-cycle' (Bose Pacia, Kolkata 2009; curator: Bhavna Kakar) analyzed and documented artistic imaginations and representations of recycling. Its latent idea was to perceive the process as an all-pervasive phenomenon, encompassing nearly every aspect of modern life - right from our desktops to the writing pads and bottles.

His ‘Everything has been done before, but we would like to go back and begin all over again' set up a recycling machine running as a kinetic conditioned to reproduce matchboxes. There were around 2000 matchboxes inside the mixer that fell on a moving steel plate. The matchboxes were accumulated and once the mixer was empty they were reprocessed in the mixer so their recycling resumed. In an intriguing sculptural work (welded aluminum, wooden alphabets, fibreglass, metal frame with acrylic) showcased at the India Art Summit this year courtesy Latitude 28, he pointed to the 'ugliness' of rampant consumerist mentality through formal beauty. The artist portended how insatiable desires – a nagging allegory of the corrupt soul - would ultimately cause destruction.

His thought-provoking works carry curious titles, such as ‘Where do I come from? Who am I? Where are I going?’, ‘Desire is Destroyed with the Destruction of Desire’, and ‘Nothing Endures but Change’, reflecting his unconventional way of thinking towards everyday issues, emotions and concerns that surround our day-to-day lives. Prajjwal Choudhury’s work is not only a visual delight but also a thought provoking experience. It makes for a sharp and subtle commentary. Summing up the crux of his art practice, he states that the idea is to bring out the dilemma of urban life by opting for a non-conventional language. Though he is not necessarily judgmental or critical, his displeasure over the turn of things is something that he does not hide.