When we reflect upon paintings by Papia Ghoshal two major tendencies are revealed to us. First, we can observe remarkable continuity with Indian tradition of painting, which is rooted in artist’s personality and secondly, we locate her works in the context of contemporary world art. And that is a timely perspective.
Appreciation of Papia Ghoshal’s vibrant colours, for example, reminds us of bright, particularly pastel and crimson tones of historical Pallava dynasty paintings or intense colour-tones of Ajanta murals. Painter Ghoshal does not repeat or imitate. What we have in mind here is the tradition embedded in artist’s soul.
We appreciate Papia Ghoshal’s sense of plasticity and her work with form since we recognise long Indian tradition of sculpture and relief plastic, a part of Indian cave architecture as in the temple at Tanjore and in other locations. We can equally value the dynamic compositions of her female figures and dance elements, which again are to be found in the history of Indian art, e.g. in representations of Shiva absorbed in cosmic dance or in images of female temple dancers. Erotica is also deeply rooted in Indian art as evident, for example, from sculptures in Konarak, a temple dedicated to the God of Sun. We mention these facts to point out deep aesthetic roots of Papia Ghoshal’s philosophy of painting in the history of Indian art. Only then we will understand that her works are not driven by a fashion.
In paintings of Papia Ghoshal we are moved by transcendental knowledge, or jnana in Sanskrit. The viewer gets pleasure from eternal life, as the fourteenth mantra goes. We experience a state of fulfilment, or Samadhi, when mind is detached from material activities and we are able to perceive our self by the pure mind alone. The colours on canvasses of our painter are full of energy since cosmos is full of energy according to tantrism.
Reflecting on Papia Ghoshal’s works in the context of contemporary world art we conclude that they are, in the words of American art historian Susanne Langer, representations of feelings in symbolic form where music has an important role to play in painting. We can find tonal analogies to emotional life in the works of our painter. American aesthetics also helps us to understand values of so called virtual time in paintings of Papia Ghoshal.
Her paintings form a part of world postmodernist movement, which bears features defined by French philosopher Lyotard as emphasis on plurality and experiment. Moreover, we stress two other qualities of artistic thought in the works of our painter: heterogeneity and incommensurability. And also graciousness which presumes experimentation and demands representation of the invisible. Post-modern aesthetics and philosophy is after all closely linked to Indian philosophy, transcending it at the same time towards disciplining of senses.
Prof. PhDr. Miroslav Klivar, CSc.
Prague University of Art
A revolution has been under way for quite sometime- a revolution in human relationships, attitude, moral, institution, perspective. It has yet to find sufficient expression in the organised life of societies and nations. However, its presence and power may already be felt in music, literature and Fine Arts, which are the antennae of the race.
I sense in Papia Ghoshal’s paintings vivid intimations of the revolution. They are a total rejection of the patriarchal or male-dominated complex of taboo-ridden cultures and civilizations that have in force for several millenia. But she is not an ideologue. Unlike Mary Wollstonecraft on Kate Millett, her medium is not words or revolutionary prose, but like one colour, or the art of painting. She rejects all taboos and imparts to her visualisation of sexuality on canvas the power and pain, an ecstacy and agony, the thrust and the tortuousness, the mystery and the ”bad faith”, that this primal desire of our existence contains inalienably within itself.
Papia seems to have chosen as her signature KALI, the fearless nude goddess of freedom and power, the timeless dancer whose wild looks rule the winds of heaven, at whose feet lies her consort SIVA who, in the patriarchal scheme, was the omnipotent Lord of all space and time, the quick and the dead. Shorm of his reveals its amazing resources to the equally resourceful and dynamic Yoni. Papia has worked on this explosive theme with a rare sensitivity and a remarkable command over line and colour. I admire her daring nearly as much as technical skill and evocative power.
Former chairman, Indian Studies, Melbourne University
Former Director, Rabindra-Bhavan, Visvabharati University Emeritus Fellow on Literature
Dept. of Culture, Govt. of India
Former Chairman, Raja Rammohan Roy Library Foundation
Founder-Editor, Jignasa, a journal of ideas and enquiry
Senior research Fellow, Indian Council of Historical Research.