Architectural Digest: From Santiniketan to London: Tracing Sushen Ghosh’s artistic evolution

Posted On: Saturday, December 23rd, 2023 | by project88pressadmin

The late artist’s recent show at Project 88 and Gallery 88 shines a light on this visionary sculptor from the Santiniketan tradition.


“Seeing,” John Berger famously remarked, “comes before words.” During a recent visit to Mumbai’s Project 88 gallery, one got a sense that seeing might also occasionally leave you speechless. Oscillating gracefully between playfulness and profound philosophy while, at the same time, embodying a mellifluous and ritualized minimalism, Sushen Ghosh’s (1940–2023) sculptures and preparatory sketches in the just-concluded Lyric, Still would have come as a revelation to anyone with even a passing interest in Indian art. The show, billed as the long overdue survey of an artist who seems to be one of the unsung heroes of 20th-century Bengali art, opened in Mumbai before making a final stop at Galerie 88 in Kolkata.

santiniketanGrowing Space, 2016 (photo: Chirodeep Chaudhuri)

Explaining how the idea for Lyric, Still first came about, Sree Banerjee Goswami, founder of Project 88 gallery, says, “My mother, Supriya Banerjee, who runs Galerie 88, noticed something rather unique about Sushen’s work and began conversations with the artist.” Unfortunately, not long after work on Lyric, Still got underway, Ghosh’s health started to decline and he passed away on 18 April at the age of 83. Following his demise, Banerjee and the artist’s Santiniketan based daughter, Mohua Ghosh, embarked on a collaborative effort to bring the retrospective to life. It is no surprise that Lyric, Still felt both like an ode and a requiem. Either way, Goswami is happy that Ghosh’s art was warmly received in Mumbai and Kolkata: “It was a privilege to facilitate a fragment of the recognition this late artist deserves, as till date, Sushen Ghosh’s work has largely remained unseen by the public eye.”

Born in Silchar, Assam, in 1940, Ghosh received his artistic training under the mentorship of Ramkinkar Baij at Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan and is known to be one of his favourite pupils. Baij—along with his own teacher, Nandalal Bose, and contemporary, Benode Behari Mukherjee—was a major driving force behind the cultural renaissance that swept through Bengal during the 1920s and ’30s. As the spiritual disciples of Rabindranath Tagore, they worked tirelessly to blur the line between art and craft and, more importantly, to rekindle the lost connection between human creativity and the natural world. Ghosh was a product of this milieu and while he had mastered his conceptual rigour at Santiniketan itself, his major artistic breakthrough occurred in England in the 1970s. Pursuing a year-long advanced diploma course at Goldsmiths, University of London afforded him invaluable exposure to Western art. “During his time in London, Sushen met and learned with Henry Moore, and studied the visuals of Constantin Brâncusi. He deconstructed their ways of thinking and making art, even as he developed his own visual language,” informs Goswami, adding that he returned to Santiniketan shortly after and spent a majority of his life as a teacher there.

santiniketanCompositon, 2005 (Photo Courtesy Of Project 88)
santiniketanSpace Around, 2013 (Photo: Anil Rane)

Ghosh is known for his monumental installations, including his most ambitious public work, Opposite, which graces the Kala Bhavana campus in Santiniketan. But for Lyric, Still, Goswami opted for smaller geometric-shaped pieces resembling fallen musical notes on the industrial floor of her gallery, which is apt because, for Ghosh, sculpture—or “frozen music”, as he fondly referred to the medium—was a symphony of form, movement, and space. He was a skilled flautist himself and music appears to be one of his abiding passions that duly informed his art. “There’s a rhythm and modularity inscribed into each of his works. This lyricism, or sculpting of sound, was foregrounded in our exhibition,” Goswami observes. “The integrated musical, mathematical, and design sense added a kind of completeness in his sculptures,” Mohua chips in. All this begs a question: if Ghosh was such a visionary, how has his legacy remained unknown to the world at large? For one, Goswami argues, he was a hermit who didn’t bother to “promote or exhibit his works widely”. She admits that placing an artist as significant as Ghosh—albeit one seemingly forgotten by history—in India’s rich tradition of sculpture is a pursuit saddled with challenges. “Not enough has been written about him,” she adds, ruefully. Yet, there’s now enough reason to think that the success of Lyric, Still will help trigger a conversation about Ghosh and his radical art, particularly outside Bengal.

Read the article on the AD website here: