I had the opportunity to meet Calligraphy artist Subhash Gondhale (SUGO) before exhibition of his latest series called Knyatavya (easy to understand). This exhibition includes three series’ viz: Akshara, Mantra and Evolution. The subject of paintings is close to Indian (Hindu) culture and tradition.. Following is the excerpt of the interview that introduces us to SUGO’s insight into these creations:
Q: How do you define calligraphy; as an art or skill?
S.G.: Calligraphy is an Art, it is a creative process and require complete concentration. The lines and strokes in letters cannot be corrected to create desired effect. Corrections would mean catch-22 situation of mind, and creation in one stroke means affirmation of idea and concept. An elegant movement of brush on paper or canvas indicates a through thought, of being calm and spontaneous expressing confidence and deep understanding of life; it is a meditative process where you have to train your mind to be limbo.
Q: Why did you decide working o Mantra or Motifs? Do you intend to introduce world to Hinduism?
S.G: These Motifs scrupulously represent India. India has rich cultural heritage and motifs are a part of Hinduism. The Motifs stated in Hindu scriptures have therapeutic value. I know this from my life long experience, as I hail from a Brahmin family where chanting mantra is a ritual followed every day. The main reason of chanting these Mantras are that, they lead to peace of mind, develop concentration and takes oneself away from vice motives, thus cleansing the soul and developing a sound mind that leads to a sound body. I want to disclose this Indian treasure to the world; make people all over the world know the greatness of Hinduism and adopt it for self well being.
Q: So is the series called ‘Evolution’ related to Indian (Hindu) belief?
S.G.: Yes, because to know why one exists, it is necessary to understand life on wider scale; universal level and to know about its creator; Lord Brahma (Hindus staunchly believe Brahma to be the creator of Universe which he created from miniscule particle). I have tried to represent Brahma’s creation symbolically by using letters which are the minute elements of large group larger forms, ‘word’ and ‘sentences’. Thus they form language; a Universe. So, I present the Hindu traditional theory of evolution through letters.
Q: Why did you create ‘Akshara’ series?
S.G.: Akshara depicts Devnagari script. I am fascinated by this script.. Each shape is very rhythmic and has graceful twists and turns’ that personify them. Here I would like to briefly explain its universal importance in Indian context. When these letters are viewed as motifs, they become mystical sounds and visuals, of Hindu origin which are sacred and important (Sanskrit language), in the language which is considered to be the language of Hindu God.
Q: Do you think there is an underlying link between calligraphy developed in various cultures and places? Does it have a particular indication?
S.G: I think there is a common link in Calligraphy found all over the world. Basically it is about writing ‘letters of particular language’ and when you speak of language, naturally it is influenced by culture and tradition, so the beauty and goodness of a particular culture gets reflected. This is a truth about every region’s Calligraphy. This indicates that Calligraphy proposes to deviate oneself from destructive thoughts and actions, freedom of soul from worldly matter and adoption of love and peace by awakening the mind.
Q: Tell us about your process of creation.
S.G.: I believe in simplicity. Creative process becomes simple when you have definite image in your mind and completely focus on presenting it visually. Focus makes action spontaneous and spontaneity is but simplicity for me. Hues represent mirage and forms become abstract. My tools are controlled by my mental state in that particular moment, so the final output is not very similar to original image. Original concept of art work remains unchanged but image turns ephemeral. As reflection goes on becoming intense, it moves from form to formless; forms merge into background and turns into abstraction.
Q: How was your experience of growing as an artist?
S.G.: This is a good question, because I would genuinely like to mention about great men who have helped me in my creativity process. Right from my learning years in Sir.J. J. School of Art I am guided by my gurus in the field of painting. The first experience of judgment of my creation by my teacher in Sir J. J. School was a turning point. Here Calligraphy was one of the subjects in the curriculum and I scored the least in my first Calligraphy test paper and my professor pestered me for it. That pestering helped me, inspired me to do the best in future papers and to my teacher’s surprise I scored the highest in latter exams. And now I have reached the stage where I can spontaneously express myself on canvas.
Q: Which artists have influenced your work?
S.G: I am lucky to meet, speak and seek admiration from great men from this field. Earlier, I used to do realistic painting and at that time Madhav Satwalekar, N S Bandre, Sir Dhurandher had attended my exhibition and personally complimented me. Prabhakar Kolte Sir was my teacher in Sir J. J. School of Art so I have spent good part of my academic period under his guidance and seen him improvising the skill and talents of students by his lectures and practically involvement in our work. Even after School days I have good relation with Sir on personal level. I consider Mario Miranda as my mentor, as he provided me the opportunity to start my career in Advertising field by recommending my name and also appreciated my works and bought three of my paintings. I owe my self confidence to excel in my profession as well as passion to Mario Miranda. Then, I also had chance to meet and speak to M.F.Hussain, M S Joshi, Raiba, Dhond Sir and also have face-to –face conversation with K.H.Ara. I was completely awed by his personality. He was very simply dressed, spoke gently and was kind enough to speak to me, even though we had met first time; he had no airs about his fame. I also had brush with Sankar Palsikar, M S Joshi. In fact, I seen demo of Palshikar’s painting…a great…great experience indeed! Now, it is a great pleasure to meet great men about whom we have studied, whose books we have read. Their personalities are as great as their works.
Q: What is your passion other than painting?
S.G.I love to read books and write about great men and create poems.
Q: Which books do you prefer? Fiction or Non- fiction?
S.G: I like to read auto-biographies and books on art. I do not like fantasy and imaginary stories as in fiction. The philosophies of great men inspire me to tread on their foot prints on the way to success; in painting and real life. I have read Dnyaneshwari and philosophies by Zen masters, Osho, Krishnamurthy and other influential personalities. I read their philosophies and adopt it. According to Zen Art, Brush strokes speaks mind. So I practice meditation, concentration and peace within myself so that it naturally and spontaneously gets projected on canvas and paper. I gain knowledge about universe and purpose of existence of every micro and macro life on earth, making the nature and this whole universe closer to me. Through books I could know and study Picasso, Van-Gogh, Burnett, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and now I am one of their biggest fans.
Q: How is your association with artists from painting and other fields of fine art?
S.G.: It is a great pleasure to be in a company of intellectual giants from various field of art. Creativity is ever developing process. These men and their insights, manner and approach towards life and art inspire me. I try to incorporate every form of art in my creations. Honestly, I extract positive energy of every field to merge it in my creation.
Q: With advent of technology, computer, software developing fonts, even the calligraphic ones; ‘writing’ is fast obscuring’, then what is its future?
S.G.: It is not possible to deny the existence of technology in any field; even in art. Advanced technology has undoubtedly contributed in saving time and manual hard work. Everything has become handy and easily accessible, even ‘writing’, as it is replaced by operating keyboard. Yes, calligraphic fonts are available and due to keyboards, writing is diminishing. It is easy to make templates using this benefit of technology. But artistically hand- written words have their beauty and powerful impact. And Writing art- Calligraphy is not just writing artistically, but it is a matter of profound dedication, concentration and purity of thoughts that go into creation of each and every letter. The fine and bold strokes can be drawn only by perseverance and can change for each artwork, giving every art work a personal touch, unlike ‘fonts’ which are unalterable and have no personal touch and feelings. No other medium of calligraphic expression will surpass handwritten medium. So, written calligraphy will always have secured place in Art, despite of technological progress.
Q: Painting, is your passion or profession?
S.G.: Painting is purely a passion for me. I am into the field of Advertising and earn enough for my family and to nurture my passion of painting without stress. I am lucky that I can afford to buy canvas and other tools for paintings without worry. For me painting is a way to escape from worldly worries and relax. It is a way to meditation. I am filled with vibrant energy, be poised, calm and stable in my thoughts and actions after I paint.
JK: Thank you for the interview.
S.G.: My pleasure.