Indian artist Ganesh Haloi at Documenta 14

24 May 2017

When Bengal-based artist Ganesh Haloi was uprooted from his birth place -- Jamalpur in Bangladesh, his artistic journey took a turn for the better, with his vision manifesting on to the canvas. Haloi, who moved to Kolkata after partition in 1950, was later commissioned by Archaeological Survey of India to make copies of murals at Ajanta Caves. Now, 27 of his selected works, both paintings and sculptures, have made their way to the ongoing Documenta 14 -- one of world's prestigious art events being held both in Athens in Greece and Kassel in Germany. Haloi says his migration from his native place left an indelible mark on his imagination. His intimate artistic practice which developed over the years, reflects his unique connection with abstracts that are an outcome of a profound study of ancient architecture and traditional arts of Bengal. For him, memory has always proven to be crucial and enabled him to paint beautifully on canvas during periods of anxiety and pensiveness. Largely influenced by nature, his simple gouache on paper is symbolic of the timeless struggle he faced while establishing himself as an artist. "I try to capture the outside world as I see through my eyes since multiple memoirs of my life have always served as an inspiration for me. As a child, I suffered the anguish of being uprooted from my place of birth and that is why my childhood has found way in my works," Haloi said. The 81-year-old says his experience at Ajanta influenced him deeply, with Buddhist philosophy gradually creeping into his compositions. "I try to paint a land that is my own. My land...with my rules. It is the struggle to create this land that makes the process of painting interesting for me. The space tension with the object has to be maintained during the course of my work," he says. Haloi, who has been a member of the Society of Contemporary Artists since 1971, doesn't like his artworks being labelled as mere abstracts. He says that he captures the reality of what he sees around. In vibrant hues of greens and blues, one can see images of fields, fish jumping out of water and kites flying in sky, which are reminiscent of his days spent on the banks of the Brahmaputra in Jamalpur. In one of his works, he paints boats against a dark blue backdrop -- a representation of how the sea tones transform by the night. "I used sit on the banks of the river and observe the water and the marshy lands. I used to hear these strange voices and always wondered where they were coming from. Perhaps, that is how I was drawn to abstracts," he says. It was during the last summer when Adam Szymczyk (artistic director of Documenta 14) witnessed Haloi's work during an exhibition organised by Akar Prakar gallery in Kolkata. "Szymczyk then decided to showcase my works in this two- city exhibition in Europe... it was a happy moment," says Haloi. (PTI)