Artist Ram Kumar’s intense abstract landscapes speak volumes through their brushstrokes
Ram Kumar, one of the pioneers of modern Indian art, is known for letting his work speak for him. His latest solo show — his first in the city — arrived in typical low key style at the sleekly re-done Focus Art Gallery on TTK Road. No fanfare, no bells and whistles. Just a series of characteristically intense abstract landscapes that speaks volumes through its powerful brushstrokes.
These are not romanticised or idyllic depictions of Nature or the world around us. No, in these acrylics and oils, jagged, textured strokes in dark earthy tones — deep browns-blacks and green-browns — create imagery of craggy rocks and mountains, uneven, rugged plains. Juxtaposed against these strokes are bright whites and churning blues — snowy glaciers, perhaps, and restless seas or skies. The completeness of each painting is remarkable; each one conjures up an imagery of a different distant locale, and somehow seems to capture the sense of the place, a place, perhaps, you’ve seen long ago or always dreamt of visiting.
Every now and again, the greens and browns and blues are leavened by a brilliant dash of red or yellow, making for a beautiful contrast. A couple of pieces transport you to a cool autumn day in a temperate land — trees turned golden-red, and the ground covered with a carpet of their fallen leaves. Still others seem to take you to the edge of fields of yellow-gold, of barley or corn, perhaps, glowing under the sun, so that the paintings seem lit from within.
Only one piece in this collection is of an urban landscape, of the temples and homes and buildings jostling for space in the crowded streets of the holy city of Banaras. This is a city that has long fascinated the Simla-born artist, a place he has visited and revisited, and painted over and over again in a number of avatars. In that sense, this painting almost forms a spiritual link of sorts, between this, his most recent collection of works, and the many celebrated series that have come before.
Credited with being one of the country’s first artists to take to the abstract form, Ram Kumar transitioned from figuratives to abstracts in the 1950s, the background of his older, moody figuratives coming to the foreground. Many, many decades of abstraction later, his canvases still hold the power to draw you in with their enigmatic yet intense imagery.
(On until September 8) , 2012.