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Exploring sagas of the unsung

Gourishankar Soni's work, rooted in the artist's childhood, reveals certain intriguing facets of time, memory and the traditional Rajasthani way of life. The artist has always been fascinated and impressed by the rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan. His paintings, often teeming with small figures in dhoti and angarkha, revelling in folk music or other activities with their backdrop awash in bright colors, are resonant with Rajasthani traditions, festivities and day-to-day affairs. The works reflect the way that common folk have been living their lives—with the simplest possible means, yet with dignity and certain grace. All this is perhaps natural, as Gourishankar belongs to Rajasthan and his preoccupation with the beautiful state, which he interprets in a unique manner, is manifest in his art. He interprets the visuals our culture has offered and its present state of affairs that he has seen and felt. The artist celebrates its beauty, joy, and melancholy, with a certain freshness and playful approach which nonetheless asks for serious, sensitive viewing.

Ironically from the land of maharajas, Soni's turbaned 'toilers' are not kings but commoners—sadhus, singers, puppeteers, labourers—men and women, who, unlike royals, have lives that revolve around mundane concerns and moments of leisure that synchronize into collective, community affairs. However in his paintings, each figure seems to have its own autobiography, its own statement. Some of them are retreating into the crevices on the mehrabs of the forts and havelis they built and themselves were almost forgotten. Some gyrating, crawling, wedging themselves through the narrow opening, and some reaching out to each other amid the grind of battles for survival. We can still find their indelible footprint in both life and art.

In his art, Soni has tried to capture their resilience, hope, fears and joys while offering them a more significant social status using his own easily flowing narratives. One can go on weaving many stories with the help of visual narratives he offers. To find the figures climbing a door in one of his works brings a smile to our face as we become one in their adventure and also begin to celebrate, as humans, the passion for creating something bigger than ourselves. Soni has meticulously placed circles and triangles in his images and has laid them neatly, one after another, to have heightened interactions of souls between them.

His works are thus a treat to the eyes and our contemplative faculties.  The way he encapsulated the small Lilliputian figures in time, is wondrous and conveys a certain hint of satire. This is particularly noticeable in his painting titled “Social Distance” which reminds us of the plight of the migrants trapped in contexts where social distancing may not be possible even during a pandemic. The use of Egyptian hieroglyphs, symbols such as clocks and antique curios might as well be suggestive of the transience and triviality of human lives. It also raises the question of whether our cultural traditions and social mores are losing their relevance like many lost empires of the distant past. So, in these works, there are histories, but the idea is to turn them into mythical, mystical realms, and make them imaginatively more alive and enchanting. Thus whatever he offers is layered with exquisite references, in terms of specific signs and symbols. In one of his paintings titled “Mystical Life”, we see a sealed tomb of a mummy with carved inscriptions that serve as clues to the rest of the happenings in the picture space.

Gourishankar knows the beauty of the lines, which makes his works more interesting and communicative. The way he sketches the figures, the kites and other objects, all come to us in a focused manner, to establish a 'dialogue'. In fact, this stimulated dialogue makes his paintings worth pondering many times over. Similarly, his use of the circumference of circles, to place some figures and objects there, symbolically is also eye-catching. His bright reds and blues are so very meaningfully expressive and other hues too speak poignantly.

Soni's skills in delineating images, his treatment of textures, his sensuous handling of forms are all allegorically tuned to the extent of being melodious in their tone and tenor. His work, while bearing echoes of the tradition of miniature, champions a more contemporary approach in telling timeless tales of mysticism, language and culture.

Prayag Shukla
Poet & Art Critic, New Delhi, 2021


1980  Shrimadhopur ( Sikar ) India.

Art Education                   
2000: Diploma in Drawing & Painting from Rajasthan School of Art, Jaipur.
2003: M.F.A. (Painting) from Faculty of Fine Art, Rajasthan University.

2000, 2008, 2011: State Award by Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academy

Solo shows
2022       : ‘Exploring sagas of the unsung’  Juneja Art Gallery, Jaipur.
1999, 2012   : Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur.
2005       :'Luminous Transformation' Installation show in Surekh Gallery, Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur.
2005       :  Tablu Art Gallery, Hotel Clarks Amer, Jaipur.

Group shows & Participations
'MULYA' an online Art Exhibition by Car Street Studio, Sydney; Group Exhibition by Art and Culture Deptt. Govt. of Raj. Supported by Raj. Lalit Kala Academy and JKK.

INTERNATIONAL BURULLUS ART SYMPOSIUM EGYPT by Abdel-Wahab-Mohsen Foundation for Culture, Art & Development;  'UNKNOWN 2020' International Art Online Exhibition & Art Camp by Asymmetry Art Group, Jabalpur; 22nd ART SYMPOSIUM SOVLJAK BY MUNICIPALITY OF BOGATIC & CULTURE AND EDUCATION CENTRE BOGATIC,SERBIA; International Rang Malhar Art workshop, Jaipur; INTERNATIONAL GRAFFITI FESTIVAL by House of Culture Chokri Belaid, Ministry of Culture Affairs Tunis, Tunisia.

INTERNATIONAL  BURULLUS  ART  SYMPOSIUM, EGYPT by Abdel-Wahab-Mohsen Foundation For Culture Art & Development; 'RANG-LOK' A Group show by Raj. Lalit Kala Academy at JKK, Jaipur; Group Exhibition by Samanvai Art Gallery at Stainless Art Gallery, New Delhi;  Group show by Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academy at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur; CIMA ART FAIR, by Cima Art Gallery at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi ; Group Show by Rajeshwar Rao Art Gallery at Umaid Bhawan, Jodhpur; 'Art at L1' at JW Marriott Hotel, Bengaluru by Asian Art House. 60thNATIONAL EXHIBITION by National Lalit Kala Academy at Mumbai.

INTERNATIONAL  ART CAMP by Neerja Modi School, Jaipur; 'EXPLORING MULTIRCULTURALISM' a group show by Raj. Lalit Kala Academy, Jaipur and Academy of Visual Media Delhi at Art Gallery Ravindra  Manch, Jaipur.

Group Art Exhibition by Samanvai Art Gallery, Jaipur ;“Prints from Rajasthan” An Exhibition of Graphic prints by Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur; “The 17th Collision” Painting Camp by Lalit Kala Academy, Chandigarh.

Art Residency and group show at the Art Gallery of Culture of Vijaywada, Andhrapradesh.

“Beyond The Borders” Indo – Korean Art Exhibition at Art Konsult Gallery, Delhi; Jaipur art Summit; National Art Camp, by CMR Institutions, Bangalore; Art Camp, Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur; National Printmaking Camp, Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur; Multimedia Artist Camp by West Zone cultural Centre, Udaipur at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur; Indo – Korean Art Camp at Neerja Modi School, Jaipur; “RANG MALHAR” Art workshop, Jaipur.

Group show at Kalaneri Art Gallery; Jaipur art Summit; “RANG MALHAR” Art workshop, Jaipur.

Jaipur art Summit; INSTALLATION at HOTEL GRAND HYATT , Mumbai  by AURA ART GALLERY; “RANG MALHAR” Art workshop, Jaipur.

Group show at Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai; United Art Fair New Delhi;  “RANG MALHAR” Art workshop, Jaipur; Art Camp by Lalit Kala Academy, Jaipur; Art Camp by Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur.

Art Camp by Kalaneri Art Gallery; Group show  at Pune by Kalaneri Art Gallery, Jaipur; Group show at Dhoomimal City Centre Art Gallery; “RANG MALHAR”  Art workshop, Jaipur; Annual Art Exhibition Award by Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academy.

Group show at Russian Eastern & Oriental Art Fair, LONDON, by I.C.A. Art Gallery; Group Show and Demonstration At Gallery Nour Al Hayat, Abidjan (Ivory Coast) Africa, by Bougain Villaea Art Gallery; Group Show by ICA Art Gallery, Jaipur; “RANG MALHAR” Art workshop, Jaipur.

KEPES WORKSHOP,  Land Art work Shop at Eger, Budapest, Hungary by ESZTERHÁZY KÁROLY FŐISKOLA – VISUAL ARTS DEPARTMENT AND - FARKASKŐ ;International Art camp organised by Consiliul Judetean Harghita  Central Cultural si de Arte Lăzarea at Lazar castle of Lazarea, Harghita County, Romania; International Painting Camp by “Mati-Manas” Jaipur ; Group show at Jawahar Kala Kendra Jaipur; Group show in Budapest Hungry;  Group show in Studio 21 by Cima Art Gallery, Kolkata; Harmony show, Nehru Art Centre, Mumbai.

Group Art Exhibition at Vyom Art Gallery; Group Art Exhibition at Travancore House by Domus Art Gallery; Group show at Cymroza Art Gallery, Mumbai; Group Art Exhibition at Travancore House by Art Elements Art Gallery ; Multimedia Camp in Lucknow by Lalit Kala Centre, Lucknow.

Painting Camp in Mount Abu by Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academy;  Art Camp in SINGAPORE, MALAYSIA, THAILAND; Group Art Exhibition in Sridharani Art Gallery by Samanvai Art Gallery; Group Show in NCPA, Mumbai.

49th NATIONAL EXHIBITION by National Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi; Exhibition at Samanvai Art Gallery Jaipur.

47th NATIONAL EXHIBITION National Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi; National Scholarship Award for Printmaking by MH.R.D. Govt. of India, 2004-05; Group Exhibition at Samanvai Art Gallery Jaipur; Graphic  Camp by Rashtriya Lalit Kala Kendra, Lucknow; Annual Art Exhibition by Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academy.

46th NATIONAL EXHIBITION by National Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi ; Awarded by National Lalit Kala Academy in Kala Mela Jaipur; Graphic Camp by Progressive Artist Group; All India Artist's Camp (Paintings) Organized by AIFACS, Delhi.

9th All India Art Exhibition by State Lalit Kala Academy, U.P.

44th NATIONAL EXHIBITION by National Lalit Kala Academy at Ahemdabad; Group Exhibition at Ravi Shankar Rawal Kala Bhawan, Ahmedabad; Group Exhibition at Bhopal by RLKA; 1st Northern Region Art Exhibition by Camlin Art Foundation, New Delhi; Graphic Camp at Lucknow, by Lucknow Regional Centre of National Lalit Kala Academy; Graphic Camp in Faculty of Fine Art, M.S. University, Baroda by Lucknow Regional Centre of National Lalit Kala Academy.

Group Exhibition at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur; Annual Art Exhibition by Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academy.

Scholarship   & Fellowship
2016       : National Junior Fellowship Award for painting by CCRT. Govt. of India.
2004-05                : National Scholarship Award for Printmaking by H.R.D. Govt. of India.

His artworks are in various prestigious, private & Govt. Collections in India & Abroad.