Special artist Ramalingam Muthukrishnan's works celebrate the female form and everyday life

Ramalingam Muthukrishnan, a hearing-impaired artist, paints worlds that move to a different rhythm.

His works are characterised by fantastic juxtapositions. In one of them, a woman and a man share an intimate moment in a roofless house while an aeroplane flies over them.

In another, images of early-morning activities at a house are telescoped into a single frame — the desired effect is achieved by making the rooms doorless. “I often club independent activities taking place in an area by choosing not to include the regular screens of privacy,” says Ramalingam.

When presented in this manner, a simple house and its lacklustre surroundings take on a greater colour and fresh meaning. The picture often borders on the phantasmagorical.

Women-centric

Ramalingam’s works also reveal a fascination for the female form.

“A woman can be likened to a flower — both are beautiful. Colourful dresses and jewels add to a woman’s charm,” he says.

His canvases are heavily populated with female forms, but are not totally free of men. A substantial number of his paintings reflect domestic scenes and the man-woman relationship.

Many images have been gouged out of his daily experiences in the city — merchants pushing carts laden with fruits, a woman laying ‘vadam’ on the terrace and hanging washed clothes to dry.

International appeal

Painted in rich colours, these images appeal to the international audience. Ramalingam, employed at the Thirumangalam branch of the Indian Overseas Bank, has exhibited in many countries.

In fact, he participated in an exhibition at Tokyo last month. Sponsorship by the Japan Foundation enabled him go to the 2009 Asia Para Art Tokyo Exhibition, attended by 200 special artists from around Asia. “I was the only one from India.”

Among much acclaimed works are the 20 paintings he produced during his stay in Brazil for an artist in residence programme (November 2004 to February 2005) at the Sacatar Foundation. These paintings convey his impressions of Brazil — he highlights Brazilian culture by contrasting the women of that country with those in India. In his characteristic style, he juxtaposed women in bikinis with those in saris.

Over the last 28 years, his style has not fluctuated. While doing his BFA course at the Government College of Arts and Crafts (1975-80), he was influenced by two professors — Vijayamohan, an expert at drawing full figures, and R.B. Bhaskaran, who took classes in printmaking — and these influences have stayed with him.

Drawing full figures and printmaking occupy much of Ramalingam’s creative landscape.

His choice of medium has remained stable through the years — acrylic on canvas and mixed media on paper. He, however, experiments with colour.

When used well, colours can be substitutes for words, in fact more effective; because they are full of mystery and tease the spectator to think beyond what is presented.