Ratul Gogoi : Shape of Reality

An article by Rupanjali Baruah

Like paint to a painter, the materials used by sculptors are manifold ranging from clay, wood, metal, marble and many more. To Ratul Gogoi, his preferences have risen from a personal choice and inner compulsion. He finds bronje to be a very strong lasting medium that enables him to create an enduring, durable mold. When bronje is heated to turn into liquid, it is then easy and smooth to pour into the mold and later, he can break the mold to discover the art piece underneath. Metal has persisted as his most favored art form to represent beauty, emotion and form. Ratul Gogoi employs his own style and technique, as it were, he enters into an internal dialogue with the elements of his sculpting world.

As a sculptor, Ratul Gogoi excels in exploring inner truths that he searches for in the visible world. And significantly, he uses additive and subtractive methods to create his own universe of forms. He adds various materials as add ons to bring them together into a cohesive whole. These add ons add various new perspectives to the principle structure of his compositions. Through subtraction, he takes away the inessential elements that come in the way of creating a unified piece of art. Especially, in case of wood carving, Ratul Gogoi takes away from the base material all those extra unnecessary elements and then assembles and models them to carve out his desired forms to shape strong, smooth curves. This leads to raised or sunken textures on the surface of a specimen of wood. There is a distinct manipulation of material to give shape to an object with view to provide a chosen effect.

In sculpting, form and content are interdependent, content is that which gives meaning to a sculpture. If one is missing then the other two factors become meaningless. In his relief sculptures, Ratul Gogoi projects certain elements integral to the main body of work but arise from the background surface. Thus his relief like a picture is dependent on the central composition as it is an extended visible projection. Relief is to Ratul Gogoi is different from his free-standing composition. Relief gives him more possibilities to deliver his meanings and at the same time it is a challenge to explore his space with economy and precision.

Ratul Gogoi employs indigenous materials of everyday local use, in this way he tries to preserve these ingredients that are part of people and their lives. He uses the shuttle, recalling how his mother’s weaving hands deftly used it to create intricate textile designs on the loom. His memories of those childhood days still recur in his consciousness. He looks for a solid faith behind any form or shape, employs add ons like threads of various colors as relief to his principle concepts. Ratul Gogoi uses a unified object to search for layers of thoughts to sap out the essence in various dimensions, some hidden, some tacit and it has to be understood by knowing the sculptor as a man and his inherent sensibilities. He picks up a symbol but he is not content with it, he looks for the boundless mystery ingrained in them. These then become his own shapes; trees come alive in his structures as images of human relationships inherent in them like mother and child, man and woman, sometimes hee reverses the shape of a tree, in upturned inverted postures to see the root or mystery of that perception in nature. The various contours in trees, the hollows deliver a subtle, hidden meaning to him, though he does not look for complexities in them, in fact he is aware more of the simple entities in nature. Trees sometimes turn into squares, where he then adds a subtle landscape at the base to include the whole universe with the microcosm of a tree. In this process, two fold dimensions are explored in detail. Ratul Gogoi often used threads of various shapes to represent the intricate miasma of a tree as it exists intertwined with weeds and creepers in nature. He uses elements of fertility, germination like water that nurtures life. To him, trees encompass the whole history of the universe.

Ratul Gogoi’s national award winning sculpture – the sacrificial altar, used two significant pieces of bamboo that accidently came floating with the city’s floodwater, he preserved them since their arrival seemed to be mysterious, almost prophetic since its later inclusion image of a sacred altar earned him national recognition and honour. Ratul Gogoi always looks at the organic reality of an object, the shape of things encourage him to represent them in his sculptures. This altar image was his protest figure against the ritual that saw performed at Kamakhya where the gory details of a sacrificial goat gave him his first hand experience of a brutality of death that later made him represent it through his red series – his use of red is equally is personal red. He also used a balanced use of red and black as search for color psychology as it were he is now inside the whorl of red.

Ratul Gogoi began with clay, it inspired him to shape and mold things playfully and eventually he discovered the joy in volume through his creations of models of Gods and Goddesses. Later he took up terracotta, wood carving and metal casting and he perfected each of these methods. In his mother and child series, he explored through Dogra technique the interdependence of unconditional love using spiral effects. Sometimes color was ingrained through oxidation process. Hollows in trees in various manifestations fascinated him. Ratul Gogoi’s palanquin series represent an old mode of transport. His Shivlinga series analyses various attributes of an ancient form. Sometimes inscriptions of religious motifs also appear in his sculptures. He worked with ceramics too, the all white pure form of a flower, a dhatura becomes an offering to Shiva – this is the sculptor’s obeisance to the Indian God like he is running his hand over the shape of a flower and they come alive at his touch.