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Artist Profile2
Interview with Debraj Goswami
Q: Do the social and political upheavals and incidents around disturb, affect and provoke you to paint or it’s something more than that you aim at as an artist?

Debraj: Whatever happens in Nandigram or with Taslima Nasreen or in Gujarat affects me a great deal as an individual and as an artist. These incidents continuously come back in my thoughts and I revisit them in many forms through my works. I consider myself to be the people's artist with my own thinking mind. In that sense, I may be perceived as anti-establishment, so I might not fit into anybody's good book. But I have to stand before the mirror every day to face myself. I may not have the requisite talent to think ahead of my times, and create something great, but I believe, my works are documentations of my time and space I’m living in. I try to be honest with this (theme) only.

Q: You have once stated that your work represents the feelings of an entire generation, which is living in a vacuum. Can you elaborate? Is the tone of optimism or otherwise?

Debraj: In my grandfather’s time, the people had Mahatma Gandhi as their idol. There were s many genuine leaders even during the early post-Independence phase, but we can't find a single politician, political party or political thought to follow. I believe one should have to have a political standpoint otherwise how we will form our opinions? After all we live in a democratic country. When a 21st century young Indian smartly say that he/she has no interest in politics, I feel, why they are living in a democracy then? If this lack of direction represents the face of new India, I am upset. Isn’t it living in a vacuum? Hence I have stated that that my work represents the feelings of an entire generation, which is living in a vacuum. It must be aware about the democracy and democratic rights.

Q: Are the issues you highlight localized or global? How do you imbibe them in your visual expression?

Debraj: To be frank, I’m not bothered about 'global' issues. We are living within the globe, so every "local' is actually a global citizen (if one knows how to ‘globalise’!!!). I work only with things I know well and can identify with. Whatever happens around me gets stored into my mind, may be for a long time, gets reprocessed, and comes out as visual imagery. How, I can't explain exactly, but after every painting I feel a little relieved.

Q: How do you react as an artist and as an individual to recent events in Bengal and Gujarat, and elsewhere in the country?

Debraj: In my student days in Kolkata (1990-97), I was actively involved in the leftist student politics. I used to read a lot of books about the revolution in Russia, China, Cuba and the leftist movement history in India as well. I was greatly inspired by knowing how legendary artists like Picasso and several renowned Mexican muralists of those times were involved in leftist politics and ideology. I was deeply influenced by the accounts of their lives, narrating how they wanted to be a part of a social change in making of a new world order with equality and freedom of thoughts, action and living. I also wanted to be like them, but....

I joined the party, but came to know that it just wanted me and its workers to be its obedient followers. The party had little interest in doing any good to the people, and had nothing to do with any social change. Most of the leaders, I found out, were selfish and hypocrites. I was very upset at this, and felt heartbroken. So, I decided to leave active politics; it’s not my cup of tea.

Q: To what extent is it autobiographical in nature? Do you perceive yourself as a neutral observer or part of the churning that you transport in your works?

Debraj: I am never neutral. I listen to my conscience. I have a thinking mind and I respond to everything around me. I carry definite opinions about various aspects of life. My works are autobiographical in that sense because it's my way of thinking. Of course, one has every right to accept or reject my views. I do respect other’s opinions as well. I will gladly accept, if I’m logically proved wrong. I think that's the civilised way of living and learning. In fact, I feel criticism must start from the self. In that way my works are autobiographical and reflection of my imperfect self.

Q: How would you sum up the spirit of your artistic processes in terms of style and the subject? What comes first?

Debraj: My thoughts and processes both come together when I paint. If I have nothing concrete to say, style is meaningless. On the other hand, if I have so much to say, but don't know how, again the theme is useless. When a synthesis between the so called style and subject takes place, I call it a ‘visual language', a perfect blending of every aspects of visual art. I'm still trying to make my visual language more perfect and obvious.

Q: What are the challenges of various mediums that you opt for?

Debraj: I'm a traditional artist. My challenge is how I can transfer the exact visual on the canvas or paper; his is what goes in my mind…