A.V. Ilango says his inspiration is India's culture and traditions. His works set trends while he blithely moves on to new forms of expressions.
A.V. Ilango has never let himself be fettered by trends. His works set trends while he blithely moves on to new forms of expressions. The mathematician-turned-self-taught artist was in Thiruvananthapuram to participate in an artists' workshop at Azhimala, near Kovalam organised by ART-Smart Gallery.
Although he was immersed in his work, the genial artist and teacher was game for a conversation on art in general and his art in specific.
The artist, sculptor and illustrator whose works have won him admirers and buyers from India and abroad makes it clear at the outset that his aesthetics is not decided by the market or by trends. “I began by capturing on canvas images of what I remembered of my growing-up years in rural Gobichettipalayalam in Tamil Nadu. Through years of search and experimentation, I got the style and means of expression I was searching for,” recalls Ilango.
His series of iconic bulls brought his works into the limelight for the brilliant compositions, use of colours and the strong lines that came to be his signature style. He followed it up with exuberant images of rural India, fairs and dancing women. Ilango romanced the line and used it evocatively to express his artistry. In the Eighties his move to Chennai was complemented with works that revolved around the city.
“See, one has to be rooted. An artist's inspiration is his surroundings and what he or she interacts with. The problem with many of our art colleges today is that they begin by initiating students into the European techniques of drawing and painting. By doing so they are ignoring or sidelining India's rich and myriad styles of drawing and painting,” rues Ilango.
He points out that in India, art and culture are woven into the warp and weft of our lives and the rich tapestry is evident in the customs and traditions of everyday life too. And though Ilango has resolutely stuck to his own style of painting, he has managed to wow art critics with the versatility of his creations.
He says it is because every artist creates a world of his own that he shares it with viewers when he portrays that world on a canvas. “It is a very individualistic space that we create. When you observe something and try to transfer that to the canvas, a process takes place; an attempt to capture the essence of what we have observed. That process transports the artist to a state of bliss and we try to convey that state to our viewers,” he avers.
Mentoring young artists
Ilango says that is what he has attempted to teach his many students for more than two decades. Three years ago he launched Artspace in Chennai where the veteran helps budding artists unlock their visual aesthetics. “It is not enough to draw the jar. One has to become the jar,” says Ilango.
After conquering the art scene with images of rustic India, Ilango tried his hand at sculpting with raw figures in granite. Buyers and requests for more such works had him working with granite and bronze, clay terracotta and so on. “Recently, an exhibition of mine at Tamarind in New York, featured only my sculptures,” says Ilango with a wide smile on his face.
He adds that he has also begun experimenting with paints again. “I keep a canvas on the floor, pour water and pour the paint on it. I let it flow and then I work on the canvas. The results have been quite interesting. It is like experiencing fluidity,” says the artist who has never put a stop to his explorations in art. Ilango plans to hold an exhibition after he completes at least 10 works.