Veteran Indian artist Ganesh Haloi is in the forefront of representing modern Indian art at the ongoing Documenta 14, one of the worlds most prestigious and keenly awaited art events.
Documenta 14 is being held both in Athens, Greece (April 8 till July 16) and Kassel, Germany (June 10 to September 17, 2017).
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Represented by Akar Prakar gallery and curated by Natasha Ginwala, the showcase includes 27 new works including paintings and sculptures created by Haloi over the last three years. Inspired by a solitary, almost recluse-like experience at the Ajanta Caves while making copies of murals for Archaeological Survey of India, Haloi has continued to infuse his work with the lyricism and mysticism of those early years.
Haloi was born in Jamalpur, Mymensingh, now in Bangladesh in 1936. He moved to Calcutta in after the Partition three years earlier. The trauma of the uprooting left its mark on his work as it did on some other painters of his generation. Artists of this generation have been very significant in the shaping of Indian modern art as they have been witnesses to India’s resilient culture, its freedom and struggle for its revivalism. Haloi’s art stands at the helm of this revival.
His simple gouache on paper works express layers of this timeless struggle. The process of creation too is a struggle to compose the space, colour, form, narration. But for Haloi it has always been colour and its space, trying to create a dialogue for each tone that he lays on the surface, giving it its own individuality and constructing layers of different tonalities and textures over it.
“I try to paint a land that is my own. My land. With my rules. It has no resemblance to nature. It is the struggle to create this land that makes the process of painting interesting. The space tension with the object has to be maintained,” says Haloi.
He graduated from the Government College of Art and Craft in Calcutta in 1956. The next year he joined the Archaeological Survey of India to make copies of the Ajanta murals. After seven years’ involvement in the work, Haloi returned to work in Calcutta. He taught at the Government College of Art and Craft since 1963 till his retirement. Since 1971, he has been a ‘member of the Society of Contemporary Artists.
“Over the years our relationship with Ganesh Haloi has only strengthened and grown. When we had met him first in 2004, as young gallerists, we were a new entrant in the art world, but he embraced us as a magnanimous Guru does young naïve learners. As our interactions with him became frequent, our understanding on art also grew with it,” Reena Lath, Director, Akar Prakar said.
“In his gentle and soft spoken manner he convinced us to visit Benaras and Ajanta, the two places in India which according to him has inspired the best of Indian artists and art. This for us was a turning point in the way we not only viewed Indian art but specifically Ganesh Haloi’s abstractions,” Lath added.
Some of the earth shades exposed in the artist’s work allude to the contours of baked clay — in fact, his home and studio remain filled with collections of clay figurines and wood crafted objects that compose an archive of living traditions.
These cultural artifacts expose Haloi’s cultivated understanding of how modernist idiom remains uniquely connected to artisanal vocabularies and vernacular knowledge from across the Indian subcontinent. Haloi lives and works in Kolkata.