Profile: Maushmi Ganguly / A Canvas named Desire / Sushma Sabnis
Equipped with a paint brush and an illuminated mind, Artist Maushmi Ganguly goes in search of the control tower of human desire. What she finds is eloquently portrayed in her water colour works ..observes Sushma Sabnis
The human mind-body-soul unit is run by a few well timed keys. Each stage in the growth of an individual sets off certain stimuli which in turn provoke a set of actions conducive to growth. Desire is one such indisputable stimulus. So where lies the control tower of this all consuming emotion ? Mumbai based artist Maushmi Ganguly tries to answer this tricky question through her water colour works.
“These days when one glances through news papers, magazines or tv channels, or just gazes out their window, one is instantly accosted by one single element which rules all of humankind today – human desire” Maushmi says. Media and ad campaigns promise and entice the viewer for the bigger, better, best; questioning and dictating the very purpose of one’s self. What nobody sees is that all of it is meant to evoke that one sharp desire.
Call it by any name, aspiration, goal, passion, ambition, craving, hunger, thirst, etc the emotion which drives and fires the human kind remains the same at any level, mental or physical. One could argue that Buddhist monks who have renounced the desires of the world also are driven by the desire to renounce! Such is the intensity and power of this all pervading emotion. For a while such thoughts and questions have occupied Maushmi’s sensitive mind. Carefully weighing the pros and cons of something so potent, she has arrived at a number of conclusions, which she expresses in her works.
“Desire could be the perfect driving force of human beings, it could inspire and push people to achieve the impossible, like a cure for cancer or an alternative source of energy perhaps, but desire also has a down side. We live in a country where greed for wealth, power, and fame has taken this emotion to its extreme ugliness. The desire for a successful harvest of grain which urges the farmer to work hard all year around is snuffed out as feudal systems and middlemen satisfy their unending avarice” she says thoughtfully.
Maushmi weaves her entire series of works with these two conflicting threads of one emotion. She becomes the weaver of the myths associated with desires, and then embellishes her works with fine embroideries of her audio works which accompany her watercolour works. Each work acts as a letter of a complex script of a story which she narrates also with which she builds mazes and reticulations within the viewer’s mind. At once a story teller, an alchemist, an observer and a performer, she lays out her watercolour renditions in all simplicity but saturated in her thoughts. One instantly gets drawn in by the sheer purity of these thought processes. Without becoming sloganeering or rigid, the artist questions the duality of an emotion which she considers the height of human achievement and the cause of all strife in humanity.
Like a visionary envisions a world yet to form and flourish or decay, she proposes to the viewer her version of a world of hope and balance. Her staunch belief in moderation comes into play the minute one observes the palette that the artist chooses. In her relatively earlier works, she uses the metaphor of a bright red apple to depict desire; the forbidden fruit for Adam and Eve, which also played a pivotal role in Newton’s theories and Steve Job’s legacy. The artist gently leaves the viewers facing the duality of this emotion while also urging them to think about the limits of their own desires.
In her work series titled ‘Outlook’ she addresses the ambiguousness of a perspective of things, as depicted in magazines which claim to report the the ‘reality’ of a situation, be it political, social or economical. A human face dominates the compositions, either in a state of defiance or aggression while in the background the artist lays out time tested stories from epics to illustrate the one-sidedness of these texts. She also uses textual material from her own writings or from others’ to build these works.
In another painting titled ‘Thoughtful’ Maushmi employs multiple narratives to bring home the point of breaking out of a closeted thinking process, by portraying a human face gingerly looking out from a box while another human form carries a huge apple on his back up the staircase of success. The artist believes purity of thoughts and a path without deviations will lead to success.
Similar sensibilities are mirrored in another work titled ‘I admit.. I am Alive’. Maushmi believes it is very easy to be distracted from one’s chosen path as distractions are abundant and doubts aplenty. But in this work, she centres the focus on the vision she has formed for the protagonist and the all familiar apple shows up as the goal urging action.
Most of Maushmi’s earlier works like ‘New Track’ suggest a slight urgency towards activity, when questioned about it she says, “As a woman I am many people rolled into one and I believe I have to juggle being a mother, wife, daughter and other roles along with my artistic pursuit. Priorities change and focus could get blurred sometimes hence these works are my way of realigning myself towards my art practice and chosen path..”she smiles. These words silently bring out the sensitive, humane facet of the artist, one which every viewer could instantly relate to.
It would be interesting to note that some of Maushmi’s human forms are genderless. She believes anointing a gender to a human form itself is a typecasting and closeting of it, as it would suggest politics of sexuality, dominance and other disruptive interpretations. She believes that a certain purity of form is necessary for addressing certain key issues without diverting from them and hence this practice.
There is a subdued humanitarian in Maushmi who emerges in most of her works, along with a very down to earth artist. She is one of the founder members of the artists collective Po10tial along with artist Akhilesh Kumar and a few of their artist and designer friends and like minded individuals. Through activities such as these artist Maushmi Ganguly addresses multiple issues both social and personal and tries to arrive at a balance in the purest way possible through her art works.