At first glance, Opashona Ghosh’s colour palette is what you would categorise as being flamboyant. However, what stands out is how the use of these vibrant colours and playful symbolism is far from trivialising the pertinent themes Ghosh dabbles with.
“Lusty lines of tender love” is how Ghosh describes her body of work. “Art for me is not about expressing, rather grounding myself in the exploration of knowledge. The ridiculous journey of trying to find my visual language with patience, love and critical approach has been most transformative in present continuous,” says Ghosh describing her relationship with art.
Ghosh’s latest collection titled ‘KIN’ uses erotica as a means to generate dialogue around gender normativity, sexual agency and female sexuality at large. According to Ghosh, this collection seemed like the most natural transition from her last project titled ‘All About My Mother’. “Having lived the most bizarre and isolated childhood, I have always been quick to fall in love with words as a way to cope. One writer I keep going back to in times of uncertainty is the magical Donna Haraway. KIN- the name - is a sexy ode to her words “making kin, not babies”. It was my starting point in the exploration of sexual agency, kinship and ‘response-ability’,” said Ghosh when asked about how this collection got its name.
Over a course of 10 months, Ghosh created this series of graphic illustrations that use erotica with an overarching and almost fantastical theme as a means to generate discourse. “KIN is devised as an urgent plea for a new vocabulary of sexuality. Using erotica as means of transcending gendered normativity and expanding agency, it dives into the peculiar world of fantasy as a way to cope. Each image was a therapeutic response to a time of deep vulnerability and loss of faith. Over the many months in making, it enabled me to consciously transform feelings of shame, fear and anger into a more mindful manifesto of pleasure as an irreplaceable component of the self,” explains Ghosh. “With KIN I gently tried to introduce ideas of sexual agency and pleasure as narrative tools to further the discussion on queer desire. I would never want to direct the gaze and destroy the beauty of exploration. But broadly speaking, in my work I have been obsessed with the concept of ‘body as a site’ of oppression and liberation, ‘naked’ as devoid of costume, vulnerability as the language of the strong and fantasy as a way to cope,” she adds.
Originally from Kolkata, Ghosh at present divides her time equally between London, Berlin and her hometown Kolkata. Ghosh believes that these three very distinctive cities have contributed a considerable amount to her creative process. “My time in London was instrumental in the development of my personal politics, strengthening my sense of self and in building my core community. In retrospect, the experience of evolving and adapting has transformed me into who I always wanted to be but wasn’t brave enough to try. The three worlds come with their own unique expanses and challenges, and have a purpose in my development as a human being, therefore by extension in my practice,” says Ghosh.
A lot of Ghosh’s art comes across as being an expression of her own identity. When asked about the same she highlights how her experiences with respect to her being a queer woman of colour have had a major impact on what she creates. “It is hard enough to be a woman in India, let alone being a queer woman with opinions! Like almost every woman I know, I too was conditioned to wear an imaginary armour of strength as a way to protect myself from the abuse of heteronormative expectations and toxic masculinity - the damages of which I now intensively tackle in my work,” says Ghosh. She adds, “Access to knowledge, unexpected conversations and new experiences of love taught me to accept vulnerability as an integral tool for personal development.”
Trying to challenge, question and broaden perspectives one pioneering illustration at a time, Ghosh’s artwork is the much-needed food for thought that we don’t usually come across. “Art responds to an immediate need or a lack (of something). We still have plenty of this even within the privileged demographic. Damaging narratives of homophobia, transphobia, slut-shaming and every other problematic effect of heteronormative values has to evolve into a more inclusive one. I am hoping the recent change in politics (decriminalisation of queer sex in India) facilitate a shift in attitudes and conduct,” signs off Ghosh.
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