Watching a doctor painting on the sidewalk and creating art using shells on a Goa beach, passers by remarked Ab to yeh koi kaam ka nahin hain (now he’s completely lost it). But Subodh Kerkar was undeterred. The son of the late artist Chandrakant Kerkar and a doctor by profession, Subodh practised in Goa for a time before turning to art, and it is safe to say that the move paid off.
Switching to art
Today, Subodh is a world renowned installation artist, having worked on sites in India, Australia, Germany and the Middle East. He does not wait for the obvious question about why he gave up a medical career and switched to art, “With the tourism boom in Goa, there came a point when almost 80 per cent of my patients were British tourists and the most serious thing ailing them was dysentery. At that point I decided we had dealt with enough British excrement already, so I decided to take up my passion for art instead,” he says with a light-hearted chuckle.
In the city for a slide presentation and exhibition of his works, Subodh is joined by artists, painters, sculptors and the like in a small hall on the first floor of the Bharat Hotel. The venue has an old world charm, with an abundance of wood panelling and soft lights. The creative souls in attendance pay close attention as one of their own ilk displays pictures of his works on a screen and explains the logic behind them.
Subodh begins the presentation, which was organised by Orthic Creative Centre, with a tale of how he used to go for walks on the beach with his father and upon his passing, did an installation that traced the path of their many walks using over 500 pictures of him.
His inspirations are many and varied, a triangular section of beach sand right next to the waves is illuminated with light at night, depicting the way a child would draw the last rays of the sunset on the water. “This is my version of the beach, remembering a sunset ,” says Subodh, looking every bit the intellectual artist in a long dark blue kurta and jeans. He enjoys experimenting with different materials, using boats salvaged from all over the coastline for his installations and more recently, experimenting with discarded rubber tires.
When asked about his take on Kochi, he launches into an account of the history of Muziris, and how it is believed that the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar may have fled to Muziris when Egypt was attacked and spent the rest of his days here. “In fact,” he says, “there is a museum in Vienna where there exists a parchment, a contract between a Muziris trader and an Egyptian merchant for transfer of commodities. That just shows how much history and heritage this city has.”
Some of his works are derived from the Portuguese arrival in India and the resulting changes in culinary habits, religion and trade within the country, and will be displayed at Pepper House in Fort Kochi.
Coming to the topic of installation art, Subodh believes it is still catching on in India because it is still difficult to translate it into money. “Compared to conventional paintings, installation art can be hard to monetise. The main issue is that we do not have enough museums that can buy such works, as most installations are museum pieces.”
Ask him why he moved to installation art, and his answer oozes confidence in his abilities, “Well, I used to paint, but that came easily to me, it was just mechanical. I felt the need to challenge myself!” he says.
A lot of strange choices dot Subodh Kerkar’s life. A topper at school who went on to practise medicine, then give it up for art, and then installation art. Perhaps the best way to sum up all his decisions is to use a line he used during the slide presentation, “Art, many times, is more illogical than logical.”
The exhibition titled ‘Pepper Cross’ begins at 4.30 p.m. on May 11 and is on till June 20 at Pepper House.