In conversation with eminent artist Ganesh Gohain
In the contemporary art fraternity of India, the spot of one of the shining stars in the list of luminaries is occupied by one of our very own son of the soil. Born and brought up in Assam, this highly versatile artist has practiced his art with a zeal and passion which has taken him across the four corners of the globe. We are talking about none other than Ganesh Gohain - a leading artist and sculptor of the country whose works have been duly recognised in various platforms all over the country and the world.
A graduate from the Government College of Art and Crafts, Guwahati, Gohain is also a First Class First-ranked Post Diploma degree holder in Sculpture Specialization from the famed MS University, Vadodara. He was a visiting faculty for the same university in Vadodara from which he passed outin 2003-2005. The recipient of numerous awards, Gohain's works have been widely exhibited in numerous countries of the world. A recipient of the Charles Wallace Fellowship, he was invited an artist in residence at the Glasgow School of Art, UK. in 2003 and at the Berllanderi Sculpture Workshop, Wales, UK in 2002-03. Last year, he was invited for an artist in residency programme for three months in Honfleur, France.
Gohain's works are in many private and corporate collections, including the ALEMBIC Group, RPG Group, Reliance Group, The Fine Art Company, and recently in Gallery Ark, Rubamin Company Limited, Baroda and with several art collectors in India and other countries. They are also at the Ecole Superieure Des Beaux-Arts in Le Mans, France, in private collections in London, at the Glasgow School of Art and are a part of the Glasgow City Council Contemporary Art Collection and at the Kelvin Grove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow UK.
Ganesh Gohain's art and sculptural endeavours are directed towards a poetic visual which sing of what could be in relation to his space, art and relations itself. 'Relations' and 'Rituals' are Ganesh's overpowering subjects. What is beautiful about these connections is that while one senses the mood the artist has worked upon, one perceives the same with endless relations of their own. By juxtaposing glimpses of memories and interactions with the discursive and the abstract, the artist's work reflects his views on a societal utopia. Within the realm of his creative expressions, he can fragment, understand and recreate realities.
Ganesh Gohain lives in Vadodara with his wife Santana Gohain who herself is a well-recognised artist of the country. The melange team entered into a conversation with the artist recently to know more about his journey in art. Following are excerpts.
Q. You graduated from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Guwahati. How do you look back at your childhood.
Ans: I was born and brought up in Khonsa of Arunachal Pradesh although our family shifted to Dibrugarh in 1971. I was born in a hilly region and that is why I possess a bird view perspective or mapping towards infinity. My parents hailed from Sibsagar district and I initially enrolled into the BSc (PCM) course of Sibsagar College. However, my interest was always in art and midway through the course, I decided to study Fine Arts instead.
Q. How did you develop an interest in art?
Ans: Art has always been an integral part of both my conscious and subconscious mind. Long before I learnt how to write alphabets, I had already started drawing human and animal figures which my mother had taught me. That might have been the beginning of my journey in art. I had joined a two months course in the Children Art School in Dibrugarh Bal Bhavan which further fuelled my interest in this domain.
It is still quite difficult for me to give an apt definition of art as I still searching for its meaning. The field of art is pretty vast and difficult to comprehend. As the world changes geographically, politically, philosophically, psychologically, socially or aesthetically,it gives rise to a lot of confusions and questions in our minds. This changes and questions makes us ponder over the existence of mankind and its immediate surroundings.
Q. Please tell us about your journey from the State Art College, Guwahati to your present profile in Baroda?
Ans: If I have to recollect my entire journey from the Government College of Art & Crafts to Vadodara, it will take a long time. So let me take you through the journey briefly.
Learning has no limit. One can learn till the end. Learning from an Art College always has many limitations but it helps to lay the basic foundation. After the completion of graduation, an individual developshis or her own language through his personal interest and research. An art institution is always meant to lay only the basic foundation and maybe, develop the technical and aesthetics base to some extent. Similarly, my foundation was laid in Government College of Arts and Crafts, Guwahati while I did my advance learning in Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University, Vadodara. So if Assam was like Devaki for me, Gujarat, which has been my karmabhoomi till now, can be compared to be my Yashoda. After that, I was invited to Ecole Superiure des Beaux-Arts, Le Mans and then Glasgow School of Art.
Q. Please tell us a bit about your art works? What kind of subjects do you treat on your canvas?
Ans:I was initially interested insculpting. Later on, I realized that I was also a painter, photographer and performance artist. So basically, you can saythat I am a clay modeller. It is not easy to describe my art work in words. It is a visual language which I have realised is an expression of infinity, briefly. An endless column.
Q. You are one of the foremost Assamese artists to have made a mark in the international art fraternity. Please tell us about some of your memorable achievements in this journey?
Ans:I don't know whether I am international or national or sub continental... and so on. I don't judge myself in that way. Artists and Art is beyond that periphery. Though we sometimes refer to artists by their nationality, such as Indian artists or British artists or American Artists but if we examine ourselves,art is beyond all that. Thoughts are always infinite. Once I said that when I look at myself in the mirror, I see only the abstract.I don't want to create a boundary but sometimes we have to do it for our convenience.
A few of myworks are collected in the UK. The Glasgow City Council had collected one of my works as a part of their contemporary Art collection and installed it in Bellahouston park. It is known as 'Foot from Vadodara', 2003. The Glasgow Modern Art Museum had also collected one of my important work,'My Table; in 2013. You can get a lot more information about my collections from the internet.
In recent times, I was part of the art project, An Open Roof', with three artists - Corinne Geffray, Jean- Louis Raymond and myself. The project was first held in France and in India last month. While Raymond was the curator of the French part, I curated the exhibitions in Vadodara and Mumbai this year. In the immediate future, I have a few solo shows coming up in Mumbai and Delhi.
Q. Do you feel that the art education environment in Assam is conducive for the emergence of new artists from the region? Since you are well acquainted with the global art circuit, what do you feel is needed for the development of art in Northeast India and Assam in particular?
Ans: It needs to be updated.The world is changing drastically.Each and every moment, there is new research going on, we have to understand that. We have to be alert and conscious about our existence, time and space. Nodoubt,art is beyond all these. An Art College is the most important part of asociety and its culture. We can read our status - cultural, political, economy, et al- through our art institutions a certain extent. Through these institutions, we can gauge how cultured we really are. Art institutions have an important role to play in society and we have to work hard to improve our understanding about them.
Q. As an artist, how much important is marketing for an artist?
Ans: In the end, everything boils down to just business.It is not nice to hear this but this is the reality. As an individual, I believe in work and its existence. Once I said,'When life exists, shadows exists;When shadows exists, life exists'. Many times if we analyse too much, we think that marketing is essential to survive but historically it is not true... hard work always pays off.
Q. Please tell us a bit about your family. Your wife is also a noted artist. How do your supplement each other's creative pursuits?
Ans:We are five brothers and sisters and I am the youngest of the lot. While two of my brothers are Engineers, two sisters have completed their education and are now housewives. My mother is living with us in Vadodara with our little dog, Toto. My wife, Santana Gohain, is a well-known abstractionist in India; her works are unique. We are both learning from each other. While our characters are opposite, we also have some similarities. We assist each other whenever we need help or support.
Q. What is your message for upcoming artists from the region?
Ans:Art is not a competition. It is about self-realization, existence, space and time. A reflection of the environment, a responsibility towards mankind and nature.
Q. What are your future plans?
Ans:To realize my existence with time and space.I have a few Solo shows coming up in India as well as abroad. I am preparing and planning for that.