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Updated: October 20, 2009 12:04 IST

Insertion of the past into the present

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Introducing the artist’s work that reflects his revisiting the artistic concepts and motifs of the early 1970s and 1980s with a renewed vitality

Bangalore-based S.G. Vasudev is an established artist and well known nationally. A seminal figure of the Madras Art Movement that developed and shaped its modernity in the early 1960s, Vasudev has been prolific in his artistic output. Not content with painting on canvas, he has extended his art form to translating his paintings into mimicked silk tapestries through the agency of the weaver. The transference of his concepts also finds visualisation in relief metal work, usi ng the repousse technique.

In the last three years, Vasudev has created a corpus of work that has been put together and published as a book, titled “Past Forward”, the text of which is written by Sadanand Menon. The book has a poetic and painterly introduction of the artist’s work that reflects his revisiting the artistic concepts and motifs of the early 1970s and 1980s with a renewed vitality. In writing such an introduction, Sadanand Menon has negated the positioning of Vasudev within the artistic milieu of pioneers, who charted a different trajectory in the early 1960s particularly in Madras.

It cannot be denied that Vasudev’s artistic vocabulary and technique have advanced, but this can be read as a path of natural progression for any artist, where the detailing and massing has been replaced with the simplicity of forms and ideas. The concept of kalpavriksha and maithuna in the present series of works are collated with the subject of He and She, Theatre of Life, Humanscapes and Earthscapes. This, according to Menon, “marks the artist’s return to all his by now familiar formative elements, which becomes a moment of such exhilarating catharsis.” The word ‘catharsis’ seems heavy for an artist of Vasudev’s stature. Is it necessarily the process of catharsis that is exhilarating or is the re-visitation to the ‘past’ intentionally woven to create an aura of newness? Is the phoenix rising from the ashes of the past to take on a renewed life? The rhetoric can be endless.


The artist revisiting his visual language and motifs may perhaps be explained as nostalgia, a perpetuation of the memory of created expressions whose records no longer exist. This was the premise on which the artist retrospected, and as he developed and progressed on his reworking, somewhere along the way, the metamorphosis of his technique and vocabulary happened. As expected of any creative individual driven by passion to seek newness in work, his oeuvre of the past few years remains consanguine but distinct. The publication, which carries a large number of well-reproduced colour plates and is artistically designed, offered an opportunity to produce a critique of Vasudev’s works of four decades but it has unfortunately been missed. The book should have had critical essays on his works from the past to the present, opening space for an academic study of Vasudev as a modern artist and allowing him to mark his moment in the history of the development of modernity in India.

PAST FORWARD — Recent Works by S.G. Vasudev: Copies can be had from author, 71, ST Bed Layout, Koramangala, Bangalore-560034. Price not mentioned.

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