Veteran artist A. Ramachandran is back after four years with some splendid bronze and oil works.
It is difficult to live with a work of art that doesn’t delight your heart however conceptually strong it may be.
A piece of art, for instance, with a mutated head, or misplaced protruding eyes, of howling, bleeding humanity somehow saddens the wall they are on after a point. That is when one looks for cheerful forms and bright hues. And that is where names like A. Ramachandran spring fondly to mind.
Even in all his “Dark Period” work of the ’60s in which, as a youth, the artist expressed his protest against the devastation caused by the atom bomb at Hiroshima and by the Nazi forces, or his response to significant occurrences like the Naxalite movement in Bengal, the nuclear explosion at Pokhran, etc, his creations remained essentially colourful and hence, exceptionally acceptable. In Ramachandran’s works, it is not the form that dictated the colour, but the colour that brought out the form.
Now minus the rage of youth, the veteran is back, after a gap of four years, with his signature colourful feast in his new exhibition of paintings, sculptures and drawings titled “Bahurupi”. Presented by the Vadehra Art Gallery, it is displayed at the recently refurbished Lalit Kala Akademi. The exhibition is notable for the classy curatorial effort of Rupika Chawla of Vadehra Gallery.
It has a tremendous visual coherence wherein the life-size paintings are explained through detailed drawings and anecdotes/quotes from personalities likeTagore and Picasso printed on long, glossy panels. A book on the exhibition written by Rupika and designed by Ranesh Ray has also been brought out by Vadehra.
The works, defined by the artist as “some loose ends without my being conscious”, are alsoreminiscent of his early days spent in Udaipur among the Bheel community.
“They live close to nature and have no affectations unlike those bred in urban areas. Delhi doesn’t inspire me enough to paint. So I have been going to Udaipur for 30 years.”
His spectacular series on “Lotus Ponds” comes from Udaipur’s Nagda Aikling area, full of temples with striking lotus ponds. His trilogy titled “Lotus at Dusk, Noon and Dawn” features an unusual glow not easy to get on canvas. His highly stylised, intricately chiselled tribal women in bronze are stunning.
Interestingly, the man who designed the famous ISI mark, the Asiad and Dandi March postage stamps, redesigned our currency notes of five, ten, 20 and 1000 rupees, and illustrated the titles of famous stories by Sadat Hasant Manto (“Kali Shalwar”, “Khol Do” etc.,), also features in his creations. It might be as a flute player in the “Summer Wedding”, a mirror holder in “The bride’s toilet”, as a snail in “A lullaby to the unsborn child”, as a fish in “The first rain drop” or as a “Bahurupi” — the gana, the heavenly attendant — in composite bronze sculptures. This also lends them a humorous touch. “Look, how self-flattering I am,” he laughs.
Besides humorous remarks on his own works, Ramachandran asserts that none of his works are free from layers. For instance, his representation of himself holding a mirror is a take on Picasso’s cubistic portrait of his mistress Marie-Therese. He symbolises in his own way the famous myth of Urvashi who suddenly disappears from the lotus pond one day in his “Lotus Pond” series, and his “Bahurupi” sculptures draw from “divine iconic images with layered meanings”.
The veteran sums up, “A true artist personalises his inspirations. He never works in blank.” The exhibition concludes on November 7.