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Ganesh Haloi’s New KNMA Show ‘Re-citations’ Recalls His Life and Imagination

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….

Ganesh Haloi

The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art is collaborating with the Birla Academy of Art and Culture to present the first-ever large-scale exhibition of eminent artist Ganesh Haloi in Kolkata. The selected artworks span six decades of painting. From his early works with imprints of figural images to ever-transforming colour fields where nuances of abstraction allude to personal memories and affective experiences that shaped his responses to nature and architecture. The preview of the exhibition, titled, “Re-citations: Rhymes about Land, water and Sky” will be hosted on 29 February 2024 by guest curator Roobina Karode. The paintings will be on public display from 1st March 2024 to 13th April 2024 between 3 PM to 8 PM at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture

Courtesy – KNMA

Haloi’s early works captured the various impulses observed in the natural environment – flood, breeze, ploughing of land or crossing of the river. The mighty Brahmaputra as the lifeline and its various moods, the marshy lands and rich aquatic life all come back to Haloi when he recalls his house in Jamalpur on the river banks. The ‘aangan’ as the first enclosure experienced as a child, both fenced and open, protective and vulnerable at the same time, evolved into a leitmotif recurrent in Haloi’s artistic oeuvre. Later on, Haloi’s visual imagination stretched this primordial form of spatial enclosure into an expansive field, with the closed boundary left broken or incomplete, allowing recollections to flood in.

Courtesy – KNMA

Over the years Haloi’s artistic preoccupations have intensified around re-composing land, his layered pictorial ground receptive to details awakened by memory and imagination. Abstraction in its most subdued iterations unbinds the tangible site and dissolves the definiteness of objects to emphasize the poetics inherent in a fragment, a minute detail, a shadow, a trace or a perceptive moment. His pictorial fields with borders and enclosures open up to swatches of ploughed and sown fields, amorphous water bodies with deeper colours, a filigree of fluorescent fragments and muted imprints.

Courtesy – KNMA

He neither claimed to be a landscape painter nor a pure abstractionist. In his minimalistic works, one can register an orchestration of formal elements laid out not for simple delectation but for posing new problems as well. His instinctive notational drawings that exude the joy of creative play are like free-verse writings. Just like his persona, Haloi’s paintings neither try to overwhelm the viewer nor overstate; instead in their restrained composure, they accommodate the unspoken and the silent gesture. 

Courtesy – KNMA

His brilliant gouaches on paper, his fluent Chinese ink drawings on Japanese scroll paper and tempera on board, along with his select works on Ajanta will embellish the exhibition. With more than a hundred works on display, this exhibition celebrates Haloi’s irrefutable contribution to Indian art through his unique oeuvre and vision. 

About Ganesh Haloi 

Ganesh Haloi (b.1936) was born in Jamalpur, Mymensingh (now in Bangladesh). He moved to Calcutta in 1950 following the Partition of India. The trauma of displacement left its mark on his work as it did on some other painters of his generation. Since then his art has exhibited an innate lyricism coupled with a sense of nostalgia for a lost world. He has participated in several group and solo exhibitions in India, California, Berlin, London, Delhi, and more. He is represented by Akar Prakar Kolkata and New Delhi. The artist lives and works in Calcutta, India. 

About Kiran Nadar Museum of Art 

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) opened its doors to the public in January 2010. It is a pioneering private museum of Modern and Contemporary art in South Asia, with two spaces located in New Delhi and Noida. It is a not-for-profit institution with an extensive and creative engagement with exhibition-making, educational and public-focused programs, and publications. The museum houses a growing collection of more than 10,000 artworks from South Asia, with a focus on the historical trajectories of 20th-century Indian art, alongside the experimental practices of young contemporaries.

About Birla Academy of Art and Culture: 

Birla Academy of Art and Culture was founded in 1967 with a vision to encourage and foster the growth of arts, crafts and cultural activities at the heart of Calcutta. Founded 57 years ago by Mr. Basant Kumar Birla and Mrs. Sarala Birla, the institution is a space for learning and scholarship, made accessible to all and with knowledge sharing at its core. BAAC’s programs focus on research and academia through community-centric activities.

Image Courtesy – KNMA

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