2 East Broadway 200
Srijon Chowdhury, Mother and Daughter, 2020, oil on linen, 9 x 12″.
During my final pre-isolation gallery crawl, I had the pleasure of seeing Srijon Chowdhury’s oil paintings at Foxy Production. It felt as though I had entered an alternate reality, populated by enchanted flowers, mysterious women, and a menagerie of eerie woodland creatures. The artist favors a Mannerist approach in the rendering of his subjects: distorted proportions, bizarre lighting. With Child (all works cited, 2020) depicts a pregnant woman haloed by crimson flowers wrapped around two long, thorny stems that gird the right and left sides of the canvas. Her suspiciously blank face makes one wonder, What is she hiding? She wears a blue robe decorated with impressionistic sunflowers, opened to partially reveal her breasts and the top of her round belly. She is strange—an inscrutable Eve.
The show brings to mind the fragility of nature and its uncertain future. In the crepuscular Crow with a Poppy, the titular bird’s heart is an incandescent red blossom—perhaps poisonous?—while in Narcissus, a girl inspects her reflection in a murky river as a pair of white lilies glow in the foreground. Both paintings capture a sense of the natural world as corrupted, forbidding.
Mother and Daughter is a disquieting scene in which the latter glares at the viewer as the former stares upward, emotionless. They appear to be in bed, lying close to one another. The little girl’s pale, grim complexion suggests that she is terminally ill, or maybe she has already crossed over and haunts the poor woman who gave birth to her. It’s difficult to decipher what’s unfolding in this picture, and a part of me doesn’t want to. Chowdhury renders a pervasive alienation—between us and our enfeebled earth, between people in this troubling life—with alarming skill.