Gobardhan Ash(1907-1996) had always been a pilgrim of intensity and an itinerant traveller. In the course of a career spanning nearly seven decades he dedicated himself to a quest for an imagery that can carry the freight of his early memories, realism, of living in a country, a politico-social conditioning (the famine period of the40s in Bengal), a politics of identity and language and above all an inner silence, celebration of life and beauty that pervades our existence through his paintings, and drawings. His drawings showcased here increasingly possess a lushness of lines, a perfectly studied scale and a painterly ease that suggests a rare coordination of discipline and ease. There is something inward and natural about the genesis of these mature works, if one were to use “natural” to describe such highly developed artifice and such an elaborately indirect use of direct perception.
He joined the Government School of Art, Calcutta (1926-30) and he had to go Madras after an open skirmish with the then Principal Mukul Dey at the school ground for Dey's pro-British stance and joined Government Art School in Madras as a student of Debiprasad Roy Chowdhury. His art was celebratory. He was a member of the historical 'Calcutta Group' which was formed in 1943. Prodosh Dasgupta was the founding member. The others who joined the group were Paritosh Sen, Gopal Ghosh, Nirod Majumder, Rathin Moitra, Shubho Tagore and others. Prodosh Dasgupta initiated and made Ash to join the group in 1949. The notion of modernism that prevailed during the late 40s and 50s relied on anxiety, fears, violence, mysticism and subversion. The conceptual transformation in these drawings done pen and brush/ink and pencil is decisive here, it opens the investigation a domain in which each fact reveals as a gaze sensitive to difference, simultaneity or succession, and frequency, observed, isolated, then, compared with a set of facts and symptoms and thus become a sign and paintings later. This could take its place in a whole series where convergence or divergences were in principle measurable- wondrous shifts between intellectual processes and explicitly physical activities reunite the life of the mind with its bodily ground. The melancholia is infinite here redolent of the writings of Orhan Pamuk layered with an evocativeness.
His lush drawings shifts from spectacle to presence, a psychological space where there is absence in spite of presence; and that presence is the sole key to a state in which ratiocination of any kind is suspended- the inadequacy of the faculties is accepted and the viewer advances humbly towards faith. Here concrete objects become tokens of a concealed desired principle.