The son of a mechanical draughtsman, Mondal took to drawing and painting at the age of twelve when he injured his knee and was confined to bed. The Bengal famine in 1943 and the Calcutta communal riots of 1946 deeply impacted his psyche, as a result of which he joined the Communist Party and became a Leftist and one-time activist. However, Rabin Mondal’s final refuge has been his art as the ultimate weapon of protest.
Mondal’s figuration derives from a growing abhorrence towards mankind’s moral decay in all spheres of life. The cubo-futuristic angularities of forms within the pictorial space arranged around them evolved into a series of paintings depicting highly distinct human figures that struggle to live a hero’s life in a mocking but tragic world. Mondal’s images have a deeply felt iconic appearance. The series Queen, King, Man represent figures that are static, totemic, tragicomic, ruthlessly shattered and ruined. Having subverted the classical canons of harmony and beauty, Mondal invented a language in paint that could express his anguish and rage towards the decadence and frequent inhumanity he saw. Even the expressionistic use of splattered colours, the bold and enormous application of black, is representative of this symptom.
Mondal’s art is typically known for its inspiration from primitive and tribal art and for its potent simplifications and raw energy. Beginning his career as an art teacher, with a stint as an art director in films, Mondal was a founder member of Calcutta Painters in 1964, and from 1979-83, a general council member of the Lalit Kala Akademi.