Indian Art is the newest art world discovery. In the past few years, modernist Indian masters such as F.N. Souza, M.F. Husain, and S.H. Raza have been commanding impressive figures at auction in all the art world capitols, and obviously the time is right for forward-looking American critics and collectors to catch up with a younger generation of contemporary Indian painters both abroad and on our own shores.
Since being alerted to his work in a review by another writer for this publication in 2007, before the present boon was fully underway, I have felt that one of the most gifted painters among them is Sunjoy Jeergall, the son of a prominent sculptor and art teacher in Mumbai. For although he has lived and worked in the United States since 1996, Jeergall’s paintings exemplify qualities of his national heritage that, if anything, had been made more indelible rather than eroded by his experience in the New York City art scene. The burnished earthtones in his palette, like those of Souza, Husain, and Raza are steeped in a clay of an arid tropical landscape; while the more strident reds and orange hues evoke not only its heat but also its pageantry and grandeur.
Some of Jeergall’s paintings depict classically proportioned figures in a symbolic setting somewhere between the earthly and the cosmic, with variously colored spheres suspended in the stratosphere above. They take on the monumentality akin to the heroic figures of the great British visionary, William Blake, as they gather together in family groups or contemplate their environment in solitude.
Other compositions veer toward the abstract, consisting of angularly simplified and interlocked shapes that remain figuratively allusive, even while projecting autonomous formal appeal unique to Jeergall’s visual vocabulary. The energy of individual human aspiration emanates from these shapes, even as they appear entangled in and anxious to rest themselves from the ties of codependency.
“My artworks are the manifestation of unconscious archetypes predominantly representing the saga of very life on this earth,” Jeergall asserts in an artist statement, “and the constant struggle for survival causing various homogenous groups tied together in relationships that are either harmonious or conflicting to one another in nature.”
One of Jeergall’s most potent recent paintings despite its relatively modest scale (16×20 inches) is “Dark World- Through the Window”. Here, he departs from his usual clearly defined interlocking shapes and subtle, subdued hues for a more aggressively vigorous gestural approach akin to Abstract Expressionism. A muscular mass of white and blue oil impasto laid down with a brush and perhaps piled down with a palette knife, projects the sense of a solid object at the center of the composition. Because its contours are roughly defined, a viewer familiar with Jeergall’s imagery may be tempted to “Rorscach” angular figurative allusions on the object’s outer edges. And given the title of the painting and visceral patches of red within the white and blue impasto, one may envision these figures as if glimpsed through a window, moving amid a dreamlike nocturnal miasma of neon light.
Yet that white and blue central form contains black cavities and is set against a background of crosshatched brown strokes, suggesting in an earthen wall, could also evoke a skull in one of those death-haunted 16th century northern European still life compositions known as a vanitas. Thus this painting seems to forecast both a darkening and deepening in the art of Sunjoy Jeergall.
–By Byron Coleman
Sunjoy Jeergall, Berkely Art Gallery,3 East 43rd Street, June 3- 28, 2013
© Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.