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`Crossover', a show of etchings and paintings by Siddhartha Ghosh explores middle-class situations

'Ten Commandments': A work by Siddhartha Ghosh

IT IS the middle-class angst that Siddhartha Ghosh explores in his etchings and paintings on show at the Forum Art Gallery till February 15. He chooses situations from day-to-day life such as travelling on a city bus, a woman at a beauty parlour or a man at a barber's shop. Through this he tries to bring out feelings of uncertainty, hope, frustration, of being hemmed in by a crowd and trying to find a way out.

If as a young lad he grew up and studied in Kolkata, he experienced life in New York as a Fulbright scholar and is able to depict life in both these places, where the undercurrents of middle-class existence appear similar.

Figurative idiom

For an artist, who has chosen the figurative idiom to express abstract feelings and emotions, it is the body language which comes to his aid; and Ghosh does it wonderfully well; the physical and facial expressions say it all. He manages to expose the anxiety of people caught in the whirl of a metropolitan city not literally like the subject on a surgeon's table but in an understated way in his etchings.

"My images reflect the situation of the middle-class because I feel this is a situation I know best. ...I have tried to portray the sense of being trapped, maybe there was also an element of sexual frustration, a kind of pressure that builds up, a continual feeling of anxiety that something is going to happen... my way of looking at abstraction is through the expression of reality," says Siddhartha. The title of the show "Crossover" is apt, as Ghosh began as a painter in his undergraduate years and crossed over to print making for his postgraduate studies and then again chose to paint, for a change from the tedium. Both his prints and paintings are there to see, portraying a constant sense of crossing over from one situation to another, even if it does not really take place.

A woman with a facial mask attempts to control the signs of ageing in `Mirror-Mirror' with anxiety writ all over in spite of the mask; there is an expression of shock on the face of the man when the barber asks `Which shaving cream do you ..?' with the knife poised above his face; there is a sense of loneliness in `Stop at 10th Floor', where a tired executive goes up in a lift, his eyes peering over his glasses at a butterfly landing on his brow with a kind of helplessness as if to say, "How I wish I were as free as you!" Some etchings arranged in a row could easily narrate a short story. With a sense of humour, Ghosh uses a series of images with a toilet seat — a man in an airport toilet when the flight is announced, the next image showing the empty toilet with a cigarette butt thrown hurriedly on the floor. Says he, "Often executives, who are on the move, have no time for such simple acts at home; even in the airport they can't relax for a few minutes!" Etchings on show

Though Ghosh has worked with various types of print making such as etching, lithography and intaglio, and has gained expertise over the years, on show here are only etchings. While building his compositions, he cleverly uses curves, diagonals, verticals and horizontals in human forms as well as the clothes and accessories, to create balance and depth. Similarly, he balances the black and white areas of a print, by introducing in-between shades of grey through typical print making techniques, achieving the subtle light and shade effects of photography.

Many of his oil paintings are copies of his earlier etchings, though very colourful. They catch the viewer's attention by the use of colours without much inhibition. But the same aspect somewhat inhibits their artistic subtlety and sensitivity. They somehow fail to evoke the feeling of empathy, which the etchings do effectively.

At present regional secretary of the Eastern Regional Centre of the Lalit Kala Akademi in Kolkata, Siddhartha is a winner of several awards, fellowships and grants at the national and international levels and has many academic achievements to his credit. He has participated in international, national and state exhibitions, group shows, camps and workshops, besides holding several solo shows.


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