Paintings by Ambadas Khobragade, Ganesh Haloi, Mehlli Gobhai and Prabhakar Kolte

18 Oct 2013

Text by Jesal Thacker, 2008

Being an artist my self from JJ School of Art's, the abstract expressions always interested me and Vasudeo Gaitonde was one of them. In class I used to often plunge deeply into observing his works of art - through books and catalogues as that was the only medium. While studying his works I came across many such artist's who painted in non-representative manner - as that is the way we defined abstract art in college. Amongst them were Prabhakar Kolte, Rajendra Dhavan, Mehlli Gobhai, Ram Kumar, Ambadas Khobrgade, Jeram Patel, Ganesh Haloi, Nasreen Mohamedi. All these artist's had a common element in them - which was that their art was un-identifiable - it was formless in its expression, although its source was this world filled with visual imageries.

Nature has been the constant and only muse for any artistic creation, through out history one can witness this fact - that how nature has transformed herself creatively to suit the eyes of the artist. The artist is initially attracted to the obvious physical beauty of nature - its lustrous form, colour, texture and over all aesthetic sensibility. By probing deeper he begins to see what the normal eye cannot see - and instead expands his vision - an inner vision which perceives the organic truth of nature, slowly dwelling deeper and deeper until he reaches that formless state from which all creation stems.

All these artists be it Eastern or Western are carriers of this hidden truth that is not visible to the eye but is known to us by some intuitive insight. Van Gogh perceived this truth with wavy energy strokes that formed his canvases - it was no aimless abstraction but instead a concrete vision, perception and construction of nature  - a reality beyond the physical existence. Paul Klee, Wassily Kandisky, Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko all resorted to this form of expression unconsciously - which was predominant in the West as they explored nature through art - from matter they tried to reach the spirit whereas in the East we directly connected to the spirit with spiritual techniques and art was an expression of that union - a narration of the bliss, an expression of the union, an image of the divinity within. One can carefully trace this faith and devotion in Indian pre-independence art - through the temple architecture, miniature paintings or Ajanta caves - they are all creative expositions of the same spirit.

Post-independent art in India was a struggle to balance these two diverse methods and approaches - from which sprung many artists who have all formed the lineage of Modern Indian Art. The above mentioned abstractionists form the extreme end of this lineage, with a limited understanding of art amongst the masses these artists were passed off as mystical, that actually blocked the passage of the true understanding. When carefully observed one can trace a sense of visual memory that is composed in their canvases which is expressed with the minimum substitution of realistic delineation - it is always just a basic fundamental impression that is expressed.

Take for example Ganesh Haloi's works - a study of them will clearly show you the landscapes of Kolkata - its typical flavour and colour expressed in minimum form, line and texture. His earlier works can be much more clearer but his later works seem to become more and more minimalistic - resorting to a silence that exists in nature. Trying to capture the breath of each leaf, and the brushing of it with its natural surrounding. How is this perceived? Why cannot a layman hear this sound or perceive its inner beauty?

Simplification is the key to all these questions - it is when we simplify not only our vision but our constant inner thoughts and desires - only then can one hear these colours and rhythm. It's a process that requires a lifetime of research - a construction of thought, its de-construction and then again a re-construction. A continuous process for an artist. Eastern Philosophy and Spirituality play a very important role here - they are the tools that support the artist's inner vision - open up their pathways of probing deeper and deeper.
And it is this enquiry of the self visa-vi of the painting, which I wanted to discover and began my journey of researching and documenting. My curatorial practice too is based on this search and thus every exhibition becomes a platform to exhibit what I have researched and also a platform for further discussion and introspection. The dialogue is never ending.

My conversation with every artist is most memorable - and I wish that this exhibition and book ‘Conversations’ take’s the reader, the viewer as well as the artist closer to that inner truth - which is universal. It would be best if I were just a silent instrument and introduce you straight to the artist's vision, statement, perception and belief. Hope it inspires you the way it has inspired me.