How is one to constrict Suparna Ghosh in a frame considering both the multiplicity of her subject matter and style whose roots can be traced to her peripatetic life as she followed her archaeologist father to sites of Taxashila and elsewhere.Continue reading
– Sudhir Pant, artist, journalist, art critic
Reviews of Paintings
What is most unusual about her painting (and her poetry) is the ever-present element of surprise… here is creation, raw in energy, sophisticated in technique, highly individual in expression.
– John Robert Colombo, author, contributor to Canadian Art, Graphic International, Atlantic Monthly, member Order of Canada
Suparna Ghosh employs a vocabulary of pictorially strong symbols … in a bold and consistent style.
– Artspeak, New York
Stand close to any of Suparna Ghosh’s works and you are enveloped in a sea of vivid colour, a shimmering space of reflected light and rhythmic undulations. Time is a key element in the experiences of Ghosh’s mindscapes, and they seem to orchestrate, more than direct our movements. They take us beyond our normal sense of sight and viewers are transformed into “experiencers”, surprised, shaken or subdues by Suparna’s imagination.
– The Times of India
The multi-faceted collection showed the artist’s bold and innovative style and today’s complex environment.
– New Woman, India
The Hidden Eye” had people coming to view her paintings, which have a timeless quality about them, and provoke one to uncover their dimensions.
– The Financial Express, India
One cannot but react strongly to Suparna’s art. The colours are hot and bold, the images shockingly dreamlike…
– Woman’s EXTRA, India
Her works are complex and often depict the complexity of their own thoughts, her own emotional transition at a particular point in time.
– The Asian Age, India
There is a certain raw energy which emanates from her work which is a combination of Rembrandt and Dali.
– Observer, Mumbai edition
A multi-faceted collection of skilful images, in bold and innovative style, accompanied by lines from self-written poems can be seen on the canvas. Eyes and clock are consistently seen in all paintings and the theme is dominated by women figures, depicted in strong, beautiful, adventurous and independent forms.
– Femina, For the Woman of Substance, India
Ghosh is also a poet, which is why she has been able to portray the female image in various states of repose, depicting her myriad emotions, independence, courage and traditions in a new perspective. Her subjects may appear mysterious, but are clear. Illustrated in beautiful colours, modern in their depiction, these everyday objects reflect our times and attract the viewers.
– (Translation from Hindi)
Mumbai August 3, 2000
The profound and mysterious quality of her work is underlined by a multitude of subtle and overt images often accompanied by lines of her own poems written across the canvas.
Barbara Moes, Toronto
There is a sense of timelessness in art which compels itself to be rediscovered again and again. The paintings of Suparna Ghosh do just that.
– Michelle Vacca, Gallery 7, Toronto
… Architecture is the appropriate word, for the painting of Suparna Ghosh all seem to “occur” in one or two kinds of space and imply a sense of dwelling.
– Donald Brackett, Media Montage, Toronto
And when she tells me to use my eyes to see, I see, and that is all I know.
– Dr. Anne Forsythe, poet and songwriter
One cannot help but look deeply into Suparna Ghosh’s paintings. The quest for self-knowledge by the artist becomes one for the viewer as well.
– Leela Vishwanathan, visual artist and writer
Suparna’s paintings are bewilderingly surrealistic. She has a knack of translating fantasies of her own and others in a very unusual idiom, style and technique.
– Mukund R. Dave, poet, critic, translator and Professor of English, Rajkot (India)
Suparna draws ingeniously on many devices—literary and surrealist, now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t, ‘to lead you up the incline…’ and throw you into a beautifully hallucinatory world – a world that teeters between dream and reality; between Venus’ flying locks in Botticelli’s painting and Penelope’s unending knitting of the scroll, awaiting Odysseus’ return. How effortlessly does Suparna straddle the three worlds of myth, folklore and surrealism is magical. Really.
– Sudhir Pant art, critic, journalist, artist
Reviews of Books
Occasionally: A Collection of Verses and Ghazals
PCK Prem, writer, critic
Occasionally is another collection of lyrics, Suparna Ghosh (a Canada based Indian poet), presents after a gap of many years. It fascinates and takes the reader to the inner world. She looks at nature and the objects amazingly with a different eye and makes certain lyrically valuable observations, which are experiential and impressionistic.
In Sandalwood Thoughts 2004, she offers lyrical drawings where the images interpret the understated with a strain of thoughtful views on life and further, cautious reflection and portrayal of complexities of the inner world comfort the sensibilities created so vividly. In Occasionally, another collection of verses (A Battered Silicon Dispatch Box Publication, Canada 2016) Suparna Ghosh once more makes a reflective and philosophical journey to the inner world of man with a slightly different perspective and therefore, it is a journey of a lonely individual of artistic proclivities to fathom the intensity of soul-experience.
To understand the poetry of Ghosh, one ought to know the range of feelings and emotions and the interconnection these have with the thought progression. Emotional region appears imperfect and indistinct but rewarding, and at the same time, defies logical definition. An effort to classify the borders of emotions with its unbroken revolution may look easy but it is inconvenient and irritating. Her poetry measures not only the intensity of emotions but also tries to characterize its potential parameters and here, lies the interpretative meaning she wishes to convey.
Life is an undefined entity a person often tries to understand. He looks penetrative and derives meanings. It is something beyond the earthly realities and the ruggedness it offers. In lonely moments, when the mind is serene, it reflects on a mystery, and makes genuine efforts to comprehend as to what happens when one perilously balances ‘the self’ and realizes an overhanging situation. To the perceptive intellect, a life further than the material world appears a possibility (Crossover 63). She is calm and relaxed even when a compendious and teasing situation arises and then, a tortuous stress disturbs.
When I am alone
I see my body as a precipice
in the distance
flanked by an infinite sky
catechisms climbing in unison
in the valley
Mind and heart of man wander at various levels of emotions and little tiny insightful upsurges. A person of insightful and vigilant eyes and intensity of deep feelings like Ghosh looks on even nonchalantly and it gives birth to a plethora of images, and through the sharp and stunning incisive cerebral prowess, ventures into areas that provide feast of elevated feelings and lofty thoughts. At this moment, she carries the man to another world of privacy and shares unrivaled and captivating experiences of universality. Ghosh is a fine master of organizing feelings and thoughtful reflections where she not only traverses the world of nature but also goes beyond the internal world of man and caresses sensitively the spiritualistic inclinations of man and thus, charms with the forceful use of words that suddenly turn musical.
‘Journey’ in life is not simple as it appears but it turns philosophic if one just deliberates, ‘flying/ with my feet on the ground /I saw vignettes /of a thousand suns /and my beloved moons…imparting light/ and darkness/ in harmony.’ 11 The lines depict the depth of inner symphony of lasting import. The pictorial melody enchants in ‘An Autumn Letter’, ‘Today began with the chatter of crows /astride the clothesline. /You hear their incessant babble, tittle-tattle…While I tug at your memory, /tell me all about fall /wherever you are.’ 17. Intensity of feelings and sensibilities amazes, and a man feels the taste of another world. It is sensory, it is in images and it talks of life that enjoys nature. An earnest desire it is to hold firmly feelings and notions and merge with the development that fulfils the objective of the creator (Beyond 68)
for decades you remained
suspended between sea and land of my body
mapping lakes and rivers
lodged in a moment of arrival and departure …
I infused you space with rain
and disappeared in the sea.
Yes, she tries to capture the entire region of emotions and sensitivity a man nurtures without consciousness, but somewhere, limitations of understanding a wide array of emotional thrust and thoughts and inadequacy of apt expression obstruct but still she tells what she wants. It is quite apparent in lyrics where she abruptly concludes and asks someone else to understand. The lines simply mesmerize and provoke you to go beyond what is obvious (March of the Marionettes 44)
I look to the sky for some clarity
to seek liberty from the tangled strings
but some days like today
even the sky wears a mask
as it watches the march
of the marionettes
Ghosh’s poetry is not poetry of too many thoughts but it is an emotion-packed festival, and through the lyrics, she entertains and enthralls. One has to go deep into each word to reach the right essence. ‘on the coast of a song /a mason sculpts random emotions /with infinite affinity /and crumbling clay…’ and then she adds, ‘thought of returning thoughts of staying/evoke the same restlessness /all connections become transparent /like light and emptiness’ 35 The fusion of intensity of feelings and genuine thoughts beautify the lines. Thoughts connected to feelings and the chords of heart defy easy illumination, and perhaps, the poet knows but cannot help. The play of emotions overwhelms and to understand the poetry one ought to sensitize the inner self to the idiom she uses.
I peeled every layer of your being and your breath
But despaired to remove the husk of your thought
In sadness in madness in soaring in falling
I dispelled your presence and musk of your thought. 84
The beauty and melodic flow of a poignant song bewitches. You simply feel the inner joy and forget what it says and that is the strength of this ghazal. A mystic refrain with magical images permeates most of the lyrics. To understand lyrics means to feel, to absorb the melody and to flow with a sense of inner joy. Interestingly, she without making it complex and hard talks of the world beyond and speaks of the contemporary mindset and of a subtle struggle to salvage life from the ruins and decay that frequently disturb. Here, she goes to seek help from the legends and the imperceptible forces –
When the trinity of rivers
gold and blue and invisible
fictional and mythic
flowing under the earth
in three bands
blended somehow and emerged
among ruin and decay
and hybrid humanity converged
in their desire to glimpse the confluence
of three rivers but once
for redemption from life cycles. 72
Many allusions and suggestions in the lyrics not only speak of the Indian consciousness but also hint at its eternal relevance to human life as a whole. Mysticism, chaste aura of emotions and phrase, softness in philosophic flow add strength to the lyrics. One ought to reach the sensitivity of the poet to comprehend the depth of experiences. It is awesome to give words to experiences.
If poetry teaches, it overwhelms emotions and you turn serious but if poetry elevates without apparent moralizing, it pacifies and appeals to the heart. One can try, reach near the feelings but cannot dive deep. Ghosh’s depth of experience amazes but she is equally strong in transmitting the delicacy with perspicacity just right. One recognizes a marvelous quietness in the paintings she paints in words and observes an affirmative restraint in the choice of expressions as if these were insignia for a painting even as wide-ranging images of natural world and men in multiple tints and emotional outbursts materialize. The rhythm, the musical flow and a warm relationship the poet establishes with nature speaks of the spiritual experience not often portrayed elsewhere and it makes her poetry unique, sublime and serene.
Dr. Sulakshana Sharma, Professor of English
University of Palampur, India
Ghosh’s Occasionally is a priceless book: for one reason that the cost of the book has not been mentioned anywhere; and for the second that one cannot put a tag on the rare amalgamation of painting and poetry that the book offers. The book has been divided into two parts: ‘Occasional Reveries’ and ‘Occasional Ghazals’, flanged by a foreword (6) by the author and an afterword, entitled, ‘Afterword: Refrain of a Ghazal’ (85). The book ends with an article, ‘Words and Visuals of Suparna Ghosh’ (87) written by Sudhir Panth.
The ‘Part 1’, ‘Occasional Reveries’, consists of thirty-nine poems. Nevertheless, in the ‘Table of Contents’ (3), only thirty-eight of them have been mentioned. The poem entitled, ‘Tide’ (27) has not been mentioned in the ‘Table of Contents’. Moreover, a reader finds the poem entitled, ‘Echo’ on page number 50 instead of the poem titled, ‘On the Streetcar’ stated in the ‘Table of Contents’. As a matter of fact, the pagination in the ‘Table of Contents’ is also a little confusing.
Three poems entitled, ‘Occasional Reveries’ (7), ‘The Invisible Woman’ (46), and ‘Symphony’ (43) are prose poems. Consider the following lines from the prose poem ‘Symphony’ (43):
In my solar system, the sun is a mass of words, heat and life,
force and destruction, construction and reflection of a cluster of
planets, around which colours revolve in symphony and erupt
But first comes the cry, always magical and mystical, an
announcement of freedom, a protest to be heard, to be fed, be
held, be overcome with gurgle and swath of happiness, of
discovery, of touch, and scent and warm milk from the
impossible comfort of a mother’s breast, as wandering eyes
focus upon her face and words begin to form in a hum. . .
mmm. . . (1-4, 14-20)
The mellifluous tune, emotional intensity and pictographic appeal of this symphony are unsurpassable. The themes in this part of the book vary from nature, woman and femininity, the colourful journey and contradictions of life, memories of a beloved, loneliness, death, the art of creation, the mystery and myth of life and beyond, the art of painting on the canvas of life, the eternal and the ephemeral, etc. For instance, her poem, ‘Dance of Goddess’ (31), is a celebration of womanhood where she refers to her as “A finite lover to the gods / an infinite mother to sons / boundless creator of daughters” (15-17). Besides these gems of poems that adorn the first part, there are many untitled three to five-lined poems that generously intersperse among and, at times, complement the thirty-nine poems. They vary from being as lucid as
I was on my way running errands
A butterfly hovered
then landed on my hair
like a lover’s touch (25)
to as ambiguous and teasing as “Receding forest / Approximate memory / Contours in the night” (34).
The Introduction to ‘Part 2’ ‘Occasional Ghazals’ (75) is again a prose poem that reads:
Long after reading them, some poems linger. Like the scent of a
lover. . .
A ghazal is separate from other forms of beautiful poetry just as
an abstract painting is distinct from a realistic one.
An amalgam of couplets, each separate and complete, yet linked
together and entirely harmonious. . .
Embracing the tenets which bind it, yet never a slave to what
… Some ghazals in classical Indo-Persian style …
Once in a while I too stray into such mazes. (1-2, 7-10, 16-20)
This is followed by nine ghazals of one page each: ‘Anchor’ (76), ‘Forest of Eden’ (77), ‘Suspension Bridge’ (78), ‘Intrusion’ (79), ‘Heat’ (80), ‘Desire’ (81), ‘Rain’ (82), ‘In Tandem’ (83) and ‘Thought’ (84). As soon as, one starts reading ‘Part 2’ of the book he/she experiences a pleasant change in the orientation of not only the pages-which changes from portrait to landscape-but also in the mood, tone and the rhythm. I quote a few beautiful couplets from some of ghazals that are mystical and romantic in nature (Indentation purposely avoided):
I look for a wave to be my oar for a cloud to be my guide and compass
To free my vessel from my mooring where it’s been anchored and tied away
With a lash as my needle and thread from my hair from color on my lips I knit a yarn
To tell the stories of all the moments the notes the scribbles I piled away
(Anchor 76; 5-8)
The canopy above my eyes is drooping; did it rain?
My face, stained with kohl, is dripping; did it rain?
Your thought which resided on my skin through eons
Is fading, cascading and slipping; did it rain? (Rain 81; 1-4)
This is followed by an afterword, entitled, ‘Afterword: Refrain of a Ghazal’ (85) where the author’s profound love for ghazals is revealed. She delineates “the technical components [and style] of a ghazal” (85) giving examples from some of her own ghazals in the book, but not before quoting Agha Shahid Ali, the first poet to “write ghazals in English in Indo-Persian style”, thus: “Each couplet must be like a precious stone that can shine even when plucked from the necklace, though it certainly has greater luster in its setting” (85). A reader is bound to relish the ghazals for their sheer melody, depth and intensity.
The book ends with an article by Sudhir Panth, ‘Words and Visuals of Suparna Ghosh’ (87). It is a very rewarding and fulfilling read. It is well-illustrated with Suparna Ghosh’s paintings. It offers a glimpse into her life and the grandeur of her “subject matter and style” (87) and celebrates the unique marriage of her painting and poetry. He not only quotes liberally from the book under consideration but also from her first two books on poetry, Sandalwood Thoughts and Dots and Crosses.
One almost instantly falls in love with Ghosh’s poetry and, especially, the ghazals that enchant and mesmerize her readers. She surprises her readers by revealing new tinctures of emotions, sensuality, romance, profound melancholy and felicity in each poem-all permeating through the wide canvas of subjects from life, death, nature, love and beyond. As far as Suparna Ghosh’s third anthology of poetry, Occasionally (2016), is concerned, it is a gem worth possessing. It is certainly a keeper for lovers of poetry worldwide and a bible for the students of Indian English poetry. Kudos to Suparna Ghosh! I eagerly look forward to reading her next book, especially, her ghazals in English.
Ontario Poetry Society
Frances Figge, President
There is so much beauty to be found in Suparna Ghosh’s book, Occasionally, and the CD of her reading to music, that it is difficult to choose what to highlight. Her poems are a lyrical weaving of magical connections between nature and spirituality, the influence of her upbringing in India, with banyon trees, mynah birds and lizards. A feminist outlook pervades the nature she envisions, the buxom beauty/ of a monsoon rain, the goddess theatre unlimited… she is earth and sky and sun and snow. She charmingly associates the physical world with the human spirit, the restless rain has stilled/ the inner courtyard of a restive mind. In her Ghazal (meaning ode to women) ironically entitled Anchor, she meshes these two: I wait for rain to be my river where I could float and paddle and slide away/ Where steam would rise from body heat and storms would form and glide away. She reconciles the impermanence of the world, for that ultimate day/ when each tributary must lead to an ocean, with a belief that some things live on, your pilot light/will burn in me/ keep me alive. Ghosh’s artistic nature is evidenced in the colourful pictures she paints, brown eyes turning grey/ and angry earth-red fingers clutching my hair, used also in imaginative ways, memories become azure mist/ narrative hues spill and disperse/ and forms turn formless grey. While recognizing that life moves on without us, Subterranean lust will erupt forever, we’re here or not…/ The impermeable will erode again whether we’re here or not, her poems shine with indomitable spirit and positive energy, do not count the years/ awaiting sleep/…count the monarchs. It is obvious that for Suparna Ghosh, poetry is a song/ that undulates/ in (her) blood.
John Robert Colombo
Author, anthologist, Order of Canada
The collection of poems, Occasionally, by Suparna Ghosh, is a very handsome package and the cover is rich in colour and motion. I read every poem, some of the poems twice. Unquestionably these are her richest, subtlest poems to date. Two of them – “An Autumn Letter” and “An Occasional Letter” – made me realize that she is, in effect, in all of them, recognizing a living woman of sensation, passion, and emotion. She might want to explore further the epistolary form in future poems; the form works for her. From all the poems my favourite lines are “a dash of panache,” and especially “of amber and ember,” which is very deft and rich! I admire the haiku-like poems which serve the purpose of dividers: a neat touch, using effective tiny poems instead of typographic fleurons. The strength of the ghazals lies in the rich use of synonyms and the regular rhythms, often lacking in poetic discourse these days. As I read them I wanted to pause over them. I felt I was reading the lyrics of popular songs.
Suparna, your book is a feast on so many levels. Please accept this small appreciation.
When you talk about “clusters” of words “that flow free in pigments,” I sense how rich your responses are because the eye of the painter embraces the thought of the poet. I marvel at “Unlimited” for the sense of the infinite restricted to poetic structure and surging to break out. The poem “Journey” encapsulates what every journey should be.
“A Long Road” is another kind of journey with “pit stops” and much redolence. I loved “Amuse” because grammatical witticisms always appeal to me. “Do Disturb” is redolent with sounds and longing for what is lost. In the poem, Flight,” the line, “I do not know if I mourn him, or if I mourn myself” is unbearably poignant, revealing that grief is a life-long journey. From “An Unwritten Narrative,” the lines “arcane beauty of an ordinary life spun over a lifetime” which the poet cannot capture – that line really speaks to me.
“Dance of the Goddess” is a wonderful poem suggesting finitude and infinitude, “A finite lover to the gods/an infinite mother to the sons….”. “Invitation to Alienation” captures the human condition: in the midst of life we are alone. “Lost Love” renders physical the psychology of absence.
“The Pilot Light” is one of my favourite poems, a paean of praise to the connection between mothers and daughters which links the generations to each other and to the earth. “Duality” affirms the existence of love after death. “Palette” is a beautiful mediation on colours as memories and memories as colours both seeking the sublimation of redolence. In “Symphony,” I liked colours as “molten metal jewels” constituting a symphony as if sound and vision could be one and the same.
I like the idea of the sky “wearing a mask” in “The March of the Marionettes.” “The Invisible Woman” a mediation on aging –mother and son. Sad and true. I must try not to rue the thought.
“Death and Sky” – so wise. From the Bible: “In the midst of life, we are in death.” “Écho” You do have an old soul. The ephemeral sounds and antique emotions will not evanesce until you do. “Suspended Forever” – We are all hanging, punishment for having been born. You make magic in “Myth and Magic of a Mannequin.” I particularly liked the line: “In auburn henna silver and sienna.” The rhyme made the colours move.
The notion of the “sky and a spy” has a certain paranoid fascination. “Timeless” – juxtaposition of forever and never firms up the concept. “Vault” – I don’t know if our thoughts are stolen away or if we outgrow them or they become part of us and no longer seem significant. Crossover” – profound, insightful and exciting. “Woman in Stride” – Suparna’s Walking Woman in words. “Bookend” – The Choice between exaltation and indifference. “Pulsate”- magnificent – colour as emotion. “Shadows” never vanish – we live life in sunlight and in shadow. “Sinless Born” – found this poem unsatisfactory – Is there redemption from life cycles? “A Song Dares” –beautiful – the artist transmutes base metals into gold. “amber/ember”
Sandalwood Thoughts: A Collection of Poems and Drawings
From every page of this volume emerges the personality of the writer as a perceptive and talented bi-media artist who knows and means what she writes. Her felicity of expression attracts re-reading of her poetic texts and re-viewing of her drawings.
– Mukund R. Dave, poet, critic, translator and Professor of English, Rajkot (India)
… her surrealistic art is magnificent in this book. However, it is her realistic portrait of a young woman on page 52 that is so striking that I will always remember it. Her images are beautiful and moving.
– Small Press Review by Ruth Schuler, Editor, Prophetic Voices, California, USA
The sounds of modern voices are heard and the whispers of ancient sounds are overheard in these poems. The poet speaks in the first person; the reader hears third-person reverberations from the ancestral past. Suparna Ghosh is both poet and artist…Sandalwood Thoughts is her first book and a distinctive one at that.
– John Robert Columbo, author and anthologist, member, Order of Canada
Her work is fascinating, poignant and is often characterized by startling originality. She has a unique poetic voice and she uses it well.
– Sandra Fowler, poet
Dots and Crosses: A Prose Poem with Drawings
This is an epic poem about love and loss and love regained, about life and death and life regained, that knows no end… Dots and Crosses has a cyclic quality or dimension rare in contemporary art that leaves the reader and viewer with the sense that he or she has either read the words before or experienced the moods, feelings and situations they dramatize.
-John Robert Colombo, author and anthologist, member, Order of Canada
Images and Incantations, the subtitle, captures the visual projection and verbal echo of the paintings and the poetry. But what was most arresting for me was the treatment of the man and woman. Unlike usual images, the woman is the sun and the man the moon, not a common conception in the depiction of lovers.
– Ruth Schuler, Editor, Prophetic Voices, California, USA