Saturday, 18 June 2011

Ganesh Shetty - Painting On Life's Canvas

Bangalore Sept 20: Art needs no voice, it can speak with the sound of silence to all those who are willing to listen.  Dreams painted on canvas by the hearing impaired can take you into a world that may be different from your own but to your surprise you find this world is no less colourful than yours.
Ganesh-Shetty-at-work
Ganesh Shetty at work
Such are the silent visuals painted by Ganesh Shetty.  They are so spellbinding that they take you through a kaeledoscope of colours that give you a glimpse into the very soul of the artist himself.  And if you find yourself stumbling to understand a particular abstract then the artiste is there to explain it for you. And no sound is needed.  Splayed fingers and expressions of the sign language convey what the artist has intended to convey all along.
Manur Chandrashekar Ganesh Shetty or M.C. Ganesh Shetty as he is more popularly known speaks through his paintings even though he lost his speech and hearing at the age of five following a bout of severe fever.  He was already into sketching and painting at this time and was encouraged by his parents to continue.  The family hails from Manoor in Kota (the place where Kota Shivaram Karanth was born), near Kundapur. At present they are settled in Basaveshwaranagar, Bangalore. Ganesh's father Chandra Shekar Shetty is into Hotel Business and mother Kusuma Shetty is a house wife.  Ganesh is the eldest of four siblings.
His brother Srinivas who is a Software Engineer in Bangalore is the second son, followed by Mahesh and Mamta the youngest.  Srinivas says that their parents never differentiated between Ganesh and the rest of the children. He was always considered normal in the family.
Ganesh's wife Preethika Shetty is also deaf and they have a 5 month old baby boy Ojas Shetty who was born without any hearing impairment.  Speaking to Mangalorean.com, Srinivas says ïž– "Initially we wanted him to get married to a girl who did not have a hearing impairment, but Ganesh objected saying that there are many deaf girls who are not married as they do not get proposals.  He had made up his mind already and convinced us saying that he would prefer a deaf girl as his wife."
Srinivas continues "We are always with our brother for encouragement and support. We have always considered him as a normal person and never differentiated thinking he was deaf. We normally communicate through Deaf Sign language (American Sign Language). When I'm in Bangalore, I attend the Deaf programs and functions and do the interpretation of the speeches to the crowd.  It is really a wonderful experience interacting with them."  Today Ganesh's family is very proud of him.
Ganesh-with-Ambarish
Ganesh with Ambarish
Ganesh's talents received wider exposure in 1989 when his works were exhibited and he won an award in the Bala Kala contest sponsored by UNICEF in Bangalore. He stayed at the Institute for the Deaf near HAL. Since then he has been steadily painting and growing as a professional artist.  His style of art has been perfected after the completion of a diploma in fine arts from a private institution in Bangalore.  Ganesh is also the Secretary of an organisation called Karnataka Charity and Environment Development.
Ganesh's artistic creations have found their way into the drawing rooms of many an art lover.  In February 2005, he had 22 of his paintings displayed at the Forum Mall in Koramangala.  This particular exhibition showed paintings with a strong accent on rural settings and women at work. His work has also been displayed in the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, USA.
In May 2005, an exhibition of 21 works titled 'Father of the Nation' influenced by the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi were displayed at the Westminster Gallery in Bangalore.  Minister for Tourism and Haj, R.R. Baig turned out to be one of the first buyers. Ganesh explains through sign language that he paints objects that inspire him from day to day life.  He plays with geometrical forms in a distinctive cubic style that fuses together to form images.  He also specializes in irregular colour blocks, a technique that he perfected himself.  Vibrant hues make him happy.  He feels that though the hearing impaired artists cannot capture sound or cannot express their feelings through the medium of sound, what they feel in their hearts comes out in their paintings.  Painting he feels is all about communication and colours are an extent of that desire to communicate.
He has great admiration for Michaelangelo and Picasso and studies their works closely.  Family Structure, Religion, Culture, Women and Children figure prominently in his paintings. According to him women are a source of strength and hold a family together while children are a nation's future.
Other artists who have studied his paintings are of the opinion that his paintings encourage multiple perceptions as they try to break free from a pre-conceived mould.
Ganesh with Tendulkar
On the eve of Republic day in 2004, Ganesh painted 26 hours non stop at the Bishop Cotton Girls School in Bangalore at an event organized by the Karnataka Charity and Environment Development Trust.  He commenced painting on a 100 metre canvas on January 25th at 6 am and continued without a break till January 26th till 8 am. His work was spontaneous and resulted in 55 abstracts.
Ganesh was also selected to be a part of the painting exhibition held on Deaf Day, September 26, 2005, by the FACD (Foundation of Art and Culture for Deaf).  The exhibition was held on the pavement of M.G. Road Bangalore and drew art lovers from all over Bangalore.  His paintings were also exhibited at the Art Exhibition held by the Association of Hearing Disabled Citizens of Karnataka on World Disabled Day on November 3rd, 2005.

Ganesh may be passionate about his art but if there's something else that brings that spark to his eyes it's cricket.   In 2003 he participated in the live painting program held at the Chinnaswamy stadium during the Indo-Pak Test Cricket Match.  Two of his paintings were then handed over to Javagal Srinath and B.S. Bedi as they showed special interest in them.  Ganesh is all praise for the generosity of Brijesh Patel who personally supported him and arranged for the live painting program at the Chinnaswamy stadium, while the match was on.  He says, "There was an amazing response from the crowd at the stadium and they loved to watch me paint."
And recently on September 18th this year, he was permitted by the authorities of Karnataka State Cricket Association to meet the cricketers.  He is very thrilled to have met his idol Sachin Tendulkar too.  He says he waited until the team's practice session was over and then approached Tendulkar with one of his paintings.  He says Tendulkar understood him very well when he explained the symbolism of his paintings through sign language.  His dream is to present one of his paintings to each of the players in the Indian team some day.
Ganesh Shetty's talent is God given but his will to help others is his own.  He is particularly concerned about other deaf artists like himself and bemoans the fact that the government of India has not done enough for them.  He wants to help them in his own way and many times the proceeds from his art are used to help someone in need.  In his free time, Ganesh is also an active volunteer at the Spastic Society of Bangalore.  His mission is to prove to the world that the physically challenged people are no less capable and talented than the normal ones.
Looking at Ganesh's talent, grit and determination we have to agree.


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