As the season of clay Ganesha idols, modakas, yummy delicacies, dance, music, and joy has arrived, prominent artists and sculptors in Bengaluru speak of what the much-loved elephant-headed God means to them as a physical form and an abstract idea. For some the icon of Ganesha has been an inspiration and for others a symbol of new beginnings.
Renowned artist M. S. Murthy, who is known for his water colour and Indian wash method paintings, believes that every Ganesha Chaturthi is the start of a new year.
An artistic ritual
“Every Ganesha Chaturthi I do a ritual programme through art. I do a set of Ganesha paintings. This started 20 years ago when my clients from the corporate world asked for affordable paintings to be presented to their staff. It started off then and I have never stopped. Every year till the month of December I get these requests from across the world. So every Ganesha Chaturthi is like the start of a new year for me, it gives me inspiration to make new paintings,” he says. “I use watercolors and the Indian wash method for my paintings, they are very simple but different from other work, this is my way of celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi.“
Murthy believes that the unique form of Ganesha has a special place in the art world. “I really enjoy the shape and form of Ganesha, which is a result of our heritage, folklore, and belief. When I was young my mother used to make a small idol made just out of turmeric. She would passionately make it, perform a pooja, and then immerse it in the water. The process and the rituals practiced during this festival are what inspire me and my art. I am an abstract painter, and I do conceptual work. My work is not restricted to one religion or community. There are art lovers from the Muslim and Christian communities too who request for Ganesha paintings. I was in Europe a few years ago for Ganesha Chaturthi and all my artwork on Ganesha was picked up. So, it is very interesting how the image of Ganesha grabs the attention and connects people from across the globe,“ he said.
A fascinating form
S. G. Vasudev, an alumnus of Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai, and one of the most prominent artists in India known for his paintings and murals, believes that though he is not a worshipper, the subject of Ganesha is very interesting. “I have created many paintings and drawings of Ganesha over the years. For me the image of Ganesha is not something I worship, but a very interesting subject to work with. If I am not happy with some work I am doing, I turn it here and there and make a Ganesha out of it. It gives me an idea to create something else.”
“Ganesha is a very interesting form with an elephant head on a human body. When I was young, I was very interested in elephants, I grew up partly in Mysuru, and witnessed many Dasara processions. My grandfather’s house was also very close to the elephant camp. So, for me, the elephant is a very interesting animal, and giving a human body to it makes Ganesha,” he says, adding that it is a form that allows for much experimentation.
Sridhar Murthy, sculptor, artist, and theatre art designer, says the icon of Ganesha inspires him to create a new piece of artwork every time without breaking the form. “The process of how Ganesha was created is an interesting aspect for me, because of its anatomy, the combination of a human and animal. I believe that the image of Ganesha is not just putting together an elephant head on a human body, but a very well-planned piece of artwork. The anatomy is not like a real elephant head or a real human body, it is beyond that, and it is a very imaginative piece of artwork. It is wonderful how several generations ago some artist picturised and thought of the image of Ganesha,” said the sculptor.
Murthy says he is fascinated by how Ganesha gives him the freedom to experiment and create something new every single time, while still retaining the essential form.