EXHIBITION - Jagannath Panda (Jun 29-Jul 15, 2006) : About the Artist


The city is a Martian, and the gods are reduced to laminated posters on freshly painted walls. An invisible predator consumes the trees and churns the fresh soil into vertical boxes of concrete. Real estate figures demonstrate that nearly 200 families migrate every day to Delhi's satellite town, Gurgaon, possible the fastest growing settlement in Asia. With the palpable need for a 'home' for the migrant, antispatial, high rise gated communities replace miles of green fields. The past and the present are set up in appositional relationships, as a pocket of India demonstrates the neo-colonization of the rural hinterland.

In the period of the personal as political identity, or the body as the site for art, Jagannath Panda gives us the seeming barren environs of a city as a subject of contemplation. The bare studio in Gurgaon where he works surrounded by his paintings becomes symptomatic of the city itself, of a stark new apartment block that still waits to be identified as home. But if the quantum representation of urbanism yields a visible spectacle, Panda chooses to evacuate these pleasures. The possibility of the spectacle has just arrived, or is not yet visible and the viewer is left in an uneasy limbo.


Jagannath Panda's personal journal mimics the pattern of India's new and visible aspiration in which the modern has come to be equated with the urban. He was born in Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa in 1970. His father, who was of the line of Orissa temple priests, made the transition from the worship of the Radha Krishna temple in his village to a petty job in a government office in the capital city. The large family of six children meanwhile grew up in Chikiti, a former royal state which traditionally brought Brahmins from the Jagannatha temple at Puri for temple worship. In Chikiti, the Madhura bhakti of Vaishnavism co-existed with the Shakti cult, the ancient worship of the feminine principle. It had its overt manifestation in a Thakurani jatra, or processional play, taken out each year in praise of the great goddess, fierce protectress and nurturing mother. Interestingly Chikiti's royal scion, Sarat Chandra Debo was the first person to introduce a school of modern art school in Orissa.

Panda (the name means priest) identifies with Oddiyan culture, its mythic structures and visual wealth via the tangled strands of India's aspiring modernity. His early introduction to photos of the gods came from Chandamama comics, a popular series that in the 1970's and 80's succeeded in reducing the climatic elements in fabular Puranic stories into children's entertainment. When itinerant potters came to the village to create Ganesh images ahead of Diwali, Jagannath would mimic their actions, creating small, vigorously colourful clay gods of his own. This interest was enforced during his studies in art at BK College of Art and Craft, Bhubaneshwar, under Dinanath Pathy, his mentor and the Principal of the college, who has extensively studied and published on the folk and classical arts of Orissa. Pathy who invokes Odia Peeth, the ancient Hindu-Buddhist name for the state records that in the 14th century text the Kalikapurana, Krishna as Jagannatha and Devi Katyayani were the presiding deities of Uddiyana (Orissa). The worship of devi is acknowledged as a primary Oddiyan religion, one that endured a later accretion of Vaishnavism and the spread of the bhakti movement.1 Dinanath Pathy writes "Uddiyana signifies a host of aesthetic ideals, the ideational and conceptual ontology that have generated forms and techniques of expression, the intrinsic phenomenology of the Odia artistic process.2 With Pathy, Panda would become aware of the historic legacy of Oriyan palm leaf manuscripts, wooden painted sculpture and Osakothi painting from South Orissa. Together these constitute the amalgam of the artistic negotiations of myth, and investigations into form that accommodate classical folk and primitive tendencies. If the visual symbol of the spread of Vaishnava bhakti is the cult of Jagannatha, the singular text that inspired it was Jayadeva's 12th century poem Gitgovinda (Song of the Cowherd). The beauty and power of Jayadeva's poem travelled from his native Kenduli village in Orissa across the breadth of India to the distant Punjabi hill kingdoms. There it inspired the great schools of Pahari painting, an efflorescence of illustrated manuscripts that envision the love of Radha and Krishna. In Orissa, the worship of Jagannatha, the Lord of the Universe, was embodied by the great Jagannatha temple in Puri, built in the 12th century by the Ganga rulers. While the British archeologist James Fergusson said "there are more temples now in Orissa than the whole of Hindustan put together" the state is also particularly rich in 19th and 20th century palm leaf manuscripts. Panda's native Ganjam district, has produced master painters, such as the Haravali Master (active c. 1800) and the Master of the Dispersed Lavanyavati manuscript (c.1800). Pathy also introduced Panda to Osakothi murals, produced seasonally for ritual worship and then painted over, such as those produced in the period 1960-90 by the outstanding muralist, Harihara.3
Jagannath Panda
An External Apearance,2004
Acrylic on canvas,
56" x 118"

Jagannath Panda
Cult and Apearance, 2005
Acrylic on canvas,
48" x 96"

Jagannath Panda
City Breeds, 2005
Oil on canvas, 54" x 90"

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