Kalakriti opens its second gallery featuring works of artist Ram Kumar, including the celebrated Benaras series

The path leading to the new gallery space by Kalakriti, at Trident, is adorned with three arresting works of one of the most recognised veteran artists, Ram Kumar, of the Progressive Artist’s group. One of the paintings is a rare figurative work by the artist who later embraced abstracts. A painting showing youngsters clad in formal black suits, against the city at night, stands in contrast to the more vivid portraits of Benaras.

The abstract cityscape series on Varanasi has been celebrated over the years for the artist’s individualistic take on a city that left a lasting impression on him. Benaras, Ram Kumar felt, blurred the line between life and death. An abstract, dated 1993, has the artist painting the ancient city standing witness to all that happens on the river, teeming with people and boats.

Though the Benaras series has been discussed by art critics over time, observing these images at close quarters is an experience to be cherished. The artist draws attention to the many facets of the city with his astute use of colours and textures. A cityscape showing rows of houses in muted shades of beige, brown and yellow juxtaposing the water is the artist’s way of emphasising the plight of widows who came to the holy city to die; it is an impression of the sombre side of the city where dead bodies await befitting funerals.

In some paintings, Ram Kumar uses solid hues to denote the vibrancy of the city and in others, using black, grey and white, he paints sordid images, reflecting on what he perceives to be ‘a ghost town’ with its narrow, crowded alleys. The strokes vary with the hues, meditative in some cases and turbulent in others.

In his later paintings, dated 2010 and 2013, Ram Kumar chose happier tones to showcase landscapes, perhaps denoting his shift in views. ‘Trancescape’, featuring a selection of works by Ram Kumar, will be on display till April 30, at Kalakriti’s new gallery, Hotel Trident, Madhapur.