Ali left behind a world of colour and textures that will inspire generations to come.
Ali’s World; Badal and Swapna Mukhopadhyay, Roli Books, New Delhi.
Crises happen in everyone’s life, but it is given to a few to transform them into opportunities for discovery of beauty and meaning. I found Ali’s World to be a unique step in this direction as it will help parents to think positively. Badal and Swapna Mukhopadhyay, Ali’s parents and the authors, have used their positive approach to gather the unique, creative experiences of young Ali.
Ali’s World is a collection of Ali’s drawings, paintings, and sketches, serigraphs that he produced within his short life. The book is a transparent flow of his expressions and creatively communicates what he has experienced. Ali’s integration of line, form, colour and textures builds subtle bridges between one’s inner self and the outer world.
Ali’s mother realised that he had evolved a unique artistic space for himself, though she was initially apprehensive. She says, “As a child grows up, he learns automatically to protect himself from undue physical harm. Through the years that Ali was growing up, I would be paralysed with fear for him because he seemed to have no sense of fear that would, ordinarily act as a deterrent to harming himself. Over the years I realised that he was not going to change: that it was me who would have to learn to live with it, and I did…to the best of my ability.”
Ali was not interested in reading books but he was extremely good with his hands. His teachers in Shiv Niketan, aunty Gauba and her team of teachers helped him in exploring his inner space. Ali’s statements: “A dream is a dream and I feel it needs no definition — Neither does a painting. After all, it’s a feeling, an expression — the rest is for you to see” makes it clear that he left us all a space for enquiry.
Ali was basically spontaneous, friendly, outgoing, generous, a young person who truly had a vibrant social presence. He used to invite and share with people who belonged to different walks of life.
When Ali found that he had aesthetic inclinations, he met Gopi Gajwani, a well-known artist. Ali asked him “What if I turn out to be a third-rate artist?” Gajwani shot back, “What if you turn out to be a third rate historian? Think of what you would like to do and let the future take its own course.” Ali then chose the Delhi College of Art.
His non-acceptance of systems helped his creativity acquire a different dimension. An expressionist, he successfully began his journey towards textural rhythm, which created order from disorder. In every painting he had been exploring different kinds of textural and formal variation, with a strong compositional value. His style remains unique. The spontaneous linear variation in his composition is added to through his bold and vibrant colour presence.
Ali’s conscious understanding of thought beyond familiarity strongly deserves appreciation. We see evidence of his unique design and composition in works such as “The Skull”, “Jimie Boy”, “The Puppies”, “Untitled” (from Goa sketch pad), “The Train Derailed” and many other untitled compositions. “ Doctor ”(a portrait) a sculptural entity with textural variation, and, “ Durga in Pather Panchali” gave a unique sense of perspective.
His mother named him “Arpan” an offering to God, but his father named him Ali, after the only person he hero-worshipped in the United States.
The book concludes with a verse from Mohammed Adil: “The painting lies unfinished/A few brush strokes on a half-filled canvas/From he who has crossed the twilight/ More colours on his palette than a rainbow can hold/Coaxed and charmed into … what?/The frozen image of a passing thought?/In searing flames now lies asleep/Pray to the world his soul to keep/‘Ali’, God’s chosen one now lies/As ‘Arpan’, an offering to the skies.” Mohammed Adil, January 28, 1999.
The writer is a Shantiniketan trained artist who teaches at The School KFI.