Meet Maria, John, Mrs Lobo, and many other interesting characters at Shripad Gurav’s first solo exhibition of portraits and tongue-in-cheek depictions of Goan life, ‘Show Goa’, which will have its preview at The Project Cafe on February 21
Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ
Somehow, art that describes Goa and creates narratives of the Goan way of life or people, is always interesting and amusing.
And artist Shripad Gurav’s cast of characters – the portly ‘bhatkaar’ (Konkani for landlord); the benevolent village priest, John, Maria, Mrs Lobo, and others, appear seemingly simple representational figures of Goan life, but there are multiple sub-narratives that underpin these images. “These are all based on imagination as I recollect images that I have been observing, various characters, the unique way of dressing, etc,” says Gurav.
The multiple histories that frame the Goan experience, its many strands – historical, cultural, social, even economic, intertwine in these paintings, drawings, and etchings done in colour pencil, graphite pencil, and watercolour on rice paper, which incidentally was selected by the jury for inclusion in the second edition of the All India Art Competition and Exhibition held in Hyderabad recently.
Chief among the historical influences on the Goan experience which Gurav depicts is the over four centuries rule of the Portuguese which left an indelible influence on shaping Goa – its religious faith, clothing, cuisine, architecture, indeed its entire way of life. Gurav invites you to look and then look again at his unfussy visuals that are richly peppered with signifiers of colonial history – the brightly coloured ‘galo de Barcelos’, (the Portuguese rooster), the patterned western style dresses, the stained glass windows, the ‘garrafa’ (the plump bottle to store feni).
Indeed, the earlier times in Goa influence Gurav’s work greatly, and he finds it difficult to accept the changes that have come about over the years. “I have seen the time when there was no other means of entertainment; where people were connected directly to each other. At that time communication was completely different. As I have grown up, I have been witness to many changes in present world – fashion, food, living standards, etc. But I like to live in my old times, cherishing all those memories,” Gurav reminisces.
Also, if you look at his artworks what will strike you is that there is always a human figure at the centre of his artistic imagination. This, he says, is because, just like in drama, where one or many characters are needed to perform and act, similarly his stories are incomplete and lifeless without a human figure.
Alongside his colourful paintings, at this exhibition, Gurav will also be displaying a series of small format etchings that display technical brilliance and execution. In fact Gurav considers etching as his foremost language of expression.
“Although it is tedious and laborious, still it has a magical mystery behind it. When you get to the final image you feel that you have found something which is not seen before. I feel figures are the means through which I try to show possible desires of mankind. Memory plays an important role in drawing an image; spontaneity is another aspect,” he says.
But for Gurav, art is just not a means to express what he believes in or questions, but is also an outlet through which analysis and connections could be made too. “I like to experiment with an image. I’m interested in finding connections by constantly going back and forth,” he says.
At the same time, he says that he cannot detach himself from society and things happening around. “Subconsciously various issues bother and even disturbs me… sometimes I express it indirectly through my works, by using humour and wit,” he says, adding that a responsible artist cannot detach himself from society. “After all he or she is also a creature and is made to play a role in this world as a drama,” he says adding that he wants to engage his viewers in his imaginary world. “I want my viewers to feel happy and joyful while seeing my works. The world is very beautiful so why bother about sufferings?,” he asks.
Gurav who has received several awards and honourable mentions on a national scale is committed to his practice of artistic expression. “As a working artist of my genre I find this journey has been interesting, the creative voyage is never ending. I am a full-time professional artist living only on art. Art is living.”
Curator of the show Samira Sheth says Gurav’s work is an apt comment on our times. “The reticent artist says this particular work was inspired by ‘the hybrid life of Goa reflecting a mixed culture’. The drawing is a deliberate mixture of universal meaning—the questions asked in the title are fundamental ones that address the very root of human existence—and its esoteric mystery,” she says.