In these abstract paper works by Bengali artist Somnath Hore, techniques such as burning and scarring bear witness to the traumas of contemporary South Asian history.

Throughout his career, Hore experimented with different printmaking techniques and materials, particularly lithography and intaglio. Such experimentation culminated with the abstract paper pulp series Wounds, produced in the 1970s.

Previously, Hore had used more traditional, figurative methods to depict tragedies such as the 1943 Bengal Famine and the violence surrounding the partition of Indiaand Pakistan. In the Wounds series shown here, the printmaking process itself reflects the artist’s experiences of violence and trauma. He used knives and red-hot rods to cut and burn into a piece of clay, which then provided the basis for a cement mould that would shape and scar the paper pulp. Wounds – 42 shows the marks of a knife, which has rippled and torn its surface, whilst a large hole burns through Unnumbered. Blistered, dented and fragile, the prints stand as representations of the wounds on human skin, pierced and disfigured by conflict and shrapnel.

The scars depicted are universal symbols of human affliction, relating to both the trauma of Hore’s lived experience and what the artist perceived to be a larger social malaise. ‘The Famine of 1943, the communal riots of 1946, the devastations of war, all the wounds and wounded I have seen, are engraved on my consciousness’, Hore said. ‘Wounds is what I saw everywhere around me. A scarred tree, a road gouged by a truck tyre, a man knifed for no visible or rational reason … The object was eliminated; only wounds remained.’

Somnath Hore (1921-2006) was born in Chittagong, India, now in Bangladesh. He lived and worked in India.

Curated by Jessica Morgan