The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Caprices woven with fresh colours and lines
- Amal ghosh abandons his past

After working for years with physical forms, Amal Ghosh has sought to break free from the shackles of “narrative” to escape into the region of pure, fresh and warm colours. He creates a cadence by contrasting the dark with the light shades, and the suggestions of figuration produced by his fluent lines. These are caprices where he gives full rein to his imagination without giving much consideration to his past practice.

As a teacher at the Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, London, he had worked both in the transparent media and had executed large murals in enamel. At his show now on at Galerie 88, Ghosh works with transparent watercolours alone. The 70-year-old says in his new work, he has tried to shed many of the preconceptions and ideas that informed his paintings in the past. He has tried to refocus towards an abstraction inspired by forms that exist in nature.

The fact that he uses transparent watercolour should not create the impression that these are diffuse and airy washes of little substance. For, he creates areas of solid colour, demarcated by lines that seem to have a life of their own. In spite of this sense of abandon, it is not very difficult to discern the painstaking care with which he has executed these lines.

Ghosh uses some basic shades, such as cobalt blue, green, yellow, green, red and orange. But he also uses darker browns and greens to create an impression of light and shade. Sometimes a delicate salmon pink or limpid ultramarine shines through large spaces filled with blue or green. A spray of fresh peach breaks through a cloud of viridian and cobalt blue. Or celadon is speckled with a darker tone of the same colour to create an impression of iridescence.

But it is his lines that give life to his paintings. Sometimes they are undulating waves with a crest whipped up by a storm. The wave transforms into the petals of a large, heavy Oriental bloom, such as the hibiscus.

The lines sometimes intertwine to produce complex patterns, that could have been inspired by human forms and in certain cases definitely by foliage. The style recalls the decorative plants and leaves so popular among illustrators in Calcutta of the late 60s and 70s. There are also glimpses of clever brushwork, whose delicacy and skill remind one of Chinese landscapes.

A large human head occupies a good part of the space in a work painted over with shades of brown. But he leaves the features undefined enough for it to look amorphous.

In one particular painting, one of his best, the space is occupied by vertical lines of colour that terminate bang in the middle of the work. From there, they go off on a tangent leaving a triangular void in between. A prism unweaves light into its components.

In a work next to it, the colours of the rainbow arch across the space. The primary colours playfully sprout leaves.

If these paintings seem only to be a celebration of colours and lines, they go to show the sense of relief with which Ghosh must have cast aside the baggage of received ideas he had been carting around from his days as a student at the Government College of Art and Craft, Calcutta. Viewers, too, share his sense of relief.

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