Artist Somji's latest series of paintings is on display at the Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan till April 12

“I approach art as an intellectual exercise,” says K.A. Soman a.k.a. artist Somji. “I find that such a studied approach to art, which is a product of one's intellect as well as sensory perception, gives art a multi-dimensional hue that communicates on multiple levels, simultaneously,” adds the artist. He urges us that it is with this approach that we must view his paintings displayed in the ongoing solo exhibition titled ‘Our Concerns Over Time and Space' at the Kerala Lalitakala Akademi Art Gallery, Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan.

Apart from a large poster detailing his vision, in which he earnestly argues for the maxim that there is no life sans art, in each of his paintings too the intellectual approach that he holds dear is quite obvious – be it in the subtle and judicious use of colour or the thought process behind each work.

Fundamental issues

Of the many series on display, it is Somji's latest series, ‘Our Concerns Over Time and Space,' that immediately captures our eye. Earthy shades of yellow ochre, Burnt sienna and Raw umber blend into abstract expressionism, each questioning our thoughts on the fundamental issues involving “unidirectional time” and “multidimensional space.”

“Does time and space exist independently of the mind? Do they exist independently of one another? Do times other than the present moment exist? Why is time unidirectional? Is the existence of the Universe necessary? What is the ultimate reason for its existence?” asks the “self-taught” artist, who retired as a deputy commissioner of commercial taxes, Government of Kerala, in 2008. It is interesting to see that in some of these works, Somji has also used splashes of red, white and yellow rubber-based paint to add texture to the painting, which in turns adds a further dimension.

That the artist is also a student of science (he has a degree in zoology from Maharaja's college, Eranakulam) is also evident in the series ‘Extinction… and Beyond,' in which he explores our relationship with Nature and the deteriorating natural world. Especially poignant are those depictions of the Caspian tiger, whose valuable skin paves the way for its own death, and that of the extinct quagga . Through this series the artist explores the concepts of animal cruelty, poaching, deforestation, global warming, and so on.

Somji's ‘Celebrity Syndrome' series, though, adds a touch of humour to the show. They point out the fallacy of contemporary celebrity life, emphasising that: “celebrities are not born, but are the products of human incarnation.” We attribute celebrity status to certain things in the natural world too, says Somji as he points out one work that denotes our scant regard for weeds when compared to hot-house blooms.

Another series that stands out is the ‘Nostalgia' segment, painted back in the 1970's and depicting the cultural milieu of the times. Part of this series is the rather quirkily-titled ‘S.G. Bila, the Comet,' painted during the emergency period, which compares the persona of Sanjay Gandhi to the comet Bila that exploded when it got close to the sun. ‘Unscripted Dreams,' ‘Ganesha' and ‘Summer Rains' series are also part of the exhibition, which concludes on April 12.