'He that is infinite has been pleased to decree immutably that all things have an end.' - Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), an Italian writer wrote The Decameron (published in 1886). A collection of a hundred tales, the book is the story of seven young women and three men who flee the city to go to the countryside to escape the deadly effects of the Black Plague. Tales of love, ranging from tragic to erotic interspersed with stories of wit, life lessons, and practical jokes find a place in this literary document of life at the time. Considered a masterpiece of classical early Italian prose, the moral of the book was that people can be happy, prosperous, and creative even in the worst of times; cyclically and eerily similar to what we have been through in recent times.
The prose in the artworks exhibited here is juxtaposed with the visuals of a movie of the same name, The Decameron (released in 1971), directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. An adaptation of Boccacio's novel, this movie summoned to life the inhospitable situation and the escapists that emerged thereof. Pasolini simply rejects the framing mechanism, placing viewers in a shape-shifting world, where one story runs into another, seldom interrupted, seldom in succession. He endeavours to achieve not a reproduction but a re-creation of medieval life and convenes a world in which white-bread affectation and capitalist manipulation have no place. It is, as Pasolini, in his performance of Giotto’s pupil, reflects in the closing shot of the movie, a struggle to render a dream.
Mazumdar's The Decameron (2021) is an amalgamation of the aforementioned novel and movie. The visuals and text in the paintings intertwine melodiously to narrate a story of the past while offering hope to navigate the crisis of recent times. These large canvases are constructed with layers of visual and textual elements, simultaneously creating the effect of the visible and disguised. Stills from the film recreated on canvas along with collaged texts from the novel, all coalesce into artworks that signify and dignify hope.
Mazumdar's paintings are guided and gilded with the belief that nothing, absolutely nothing, can extinguish life's force.