Sunday, March 22, 2009

"wisdom of unseen ways"

It was a perfect Thursday morning in Goa. The sun was generous, the sky was clear, and I was on my way to the Kerkar Art Complex on Calangute beach. The Maruti van pulled over a large plot of land that consisted of an art gallery, a studio, a restaurant and a retreat. Subodh was in the process of experimenting his new project that involved a video projection and a kaleidoscope, mischievously trying out all the permutation combinations possible that were associated with the concept.

The entire space was energized with sculptures, installations and paintings that were created by the artist over time. Wood, metal, clay and fiberglass were among the few materials used in his works apart from rope, light shells, and other natural elements found on the beaches of Goa. Each work was aptly displayed, and all the evidence converged on the fact that the artist was in love with the sea and its offerings.

Subodh’s initial art training was given by his father, a student of late Prof. S.L. Haldankar, after which Subodh developed a natural hand at landscape paintings at fifteen. Being student of merit in high school, the best obvious option for Subodh was admission in the Goa Medical College at the age of eighteen. Even as a medical student, he continued to paint and illustrate. After completing his medical studies in 1983, Subodh ran his own hospital for 6 years in Goa before giving up his medical profession for his passion, visual art.

We sat in the verandah over a cup of Chai and cigarettes and spoke of Walter de Maria’s Lightening Poles, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, Tagore’s poetry and Dhruv Mistry’s metal cut outs and Anish Kapoor’s unparalleled concepts. “All these artists have clearly derived some amount inspiration from other artists and fused it with their vision. I personally, am pro plagiarism,” he proclaimed, smiling confidently, “it doesn’t rediscover the will, and there are always ideas that offshoot from ideas. It’s allowed…” This statement reflected spotlessly in his works, and allowed the artist to be free to absorb from cultures and concepts only to understand his own better.

Growing up at the beach impacted Subodh to a degree where the sea has become his muse and his inspiration. “…the sea has been my Guru, and my installations are a Gurudakshina to the sea…” His works have been displayed boldly on various beaches in Goa. Sand mounds fringed with lights, thousands of clamshells, coconut shells, clay sculptures filled with lights. His works become alive simply because they belong where they are created. Absolutely surreal. “My installations are ephemeral like the writing of the sea on the sand. The temporary nature of the installations gives them a playful character and certain spontaneity. The installations present a continuous change especially the ones with sand and light.”

Subodh spoke of ambitious upcoming projects and exhibitions that he has lined up around the world. He had the energy and enthusiasm of a child in a toy store, hypnotized by every object in his daily life. “They give me what I want to give back…” Completely thankful for all that he has in his plate, Subodh has found his calling. He had to travel a long way to understand that he only wants to create. As we parted ways, he looked me in the eye and recited a verse from Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, ‘Fruit Gathering’,
“Where roads are made I lose my way.
In the wide water, in the blue sky there is no line of a track.
The pathway is hidden by the birds' wings, by the star-fires, by the flowers of the wayfaring seasons.
And I ask my heart if its blood carries the wisdom of the unseen way.”

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