By Dr Alice Correia
Writing on the occasion of Amal Ghosh’s 1987 exhibition at Birla Academy, Calcutta, the artist Cecil Collins wrote, “The great need of the West today is the contemplative life. In his paintings Amal has created an equilibrium between eastern and western culture. He has succeeded in combining the speculation of the West with the contemplative tradition of the East”. Over the course of his career, Amal Ghosh has established his own painterly vocabulary that incorporates elements from various schools of modern European art, displaying an interest in colour theory, abstraction, and symbolism, while being simultaneously steeped in a deep understanding and appreciation of his Indian heritage and its artistic history. Ghosh’s affecting aesthetic investigations have resulted in a series of resonant and lyrical paintings that convey universally felt emotions, ranging through hesitancy and abandon, fear and joy.
Amal Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1933, and attended the Government College of Art and Craft, studying painting; although the college had, in the early decades of the 20th century been associated with the Bengal School of Painting, which encouraged students to look to ancient Indian and Mughal art for inspiration, traces of this approach to art making had all but disappeared by the time Ghosh attended, and his was an Euro-centric arts education. He recalled, “cultural colonialism ensured that my initial development as an artist had little to do with my own cultural heritage … Calcutta Art College was modelled in philosophy and practice on the Slade School of Fine Art in London”. Nonetheless, Ghosh excelled, and arrived in Britain, where he attended Central School of Art and Crafts, 1958-60, specialising in mural painting.