Rajan Krishnan says his art is all about the real images around him
Art is stepping out of guarded boundaries, into the hustle and bustle of everyday city life. Rajan Krishnan's ‘Elemental' show, organised by Gallery 360/Outdoors screened last weekend at the ‘Flavors' restaurant in Vazhuthacaud was a reassuring sign of changing times for artists and art lovers in the capital city.
It was a sign that art can and must peacefully coexist with the mundane realities of human life. So, along with the clutter, patter and aromas that floated in the vicinity, there was Rajan Krishnan's almost inaudibly soft voice inviting the audience to enjoy his work.
Calling himself a “documenter of the residues we have left in the middle of building our ‘Utopia,” Raja Krishnan, the Kochi-based artist, uses memory as a powerful metaphor – cynically at times – to make us pause and reflect. As an observer, one ended up musing on the pace of life, on the relevance of our roots and tradition, on the irony of modern life that misses most of us.
Rajan, who has won several accolades and has shown his work extensively, home and abroad (he represented Bodhi Art in New York), is one of the few artists who decided to come back to Kerala and work from Kochi after his studies. Rajan explains that he needed to experiment a bit with his life instead of following the tried and tested path. “Kerala is a good place to stay and work, for an artist. A working artist can create a lot of awareness about art in the society by just being in the middle of it,” he says.
One way he achieves this mission is by involving society in his work. ‘Making of ORE' is his community art project that had a group of youngsters, men, women and children making terracotta figurines that were exhibited as part of his installation. One of the two videos screened last week documented moments from this community project, interspersed with glimpses of the artist's hometown nestled amidst rubber plantations, his school, the Mumbai cityscape and so on.
One perceived the video as a huge drop of the artist's memory, blotched with contrasting moments of past, present, city, village, and so on. Rajan believes that not only individuals, even societies suffer from a dysfunction of memory – a collective memory. Hence, the ability to recollect becomes critical, both for the individual, and for a society. Art helps to recollect past and history.
A recurring memory in his works is that of the railway track. Grey, gigantic, imposing, threatening, the railway track appears and reappears in his massive canvasses, recalling his childhood days spent in the vicinity of one in Shornur. But Rajan clarifies that his work was never about nostalgia. “For me, what I portray is the realities lived within me,” he adds.
Video is a relatively new medium Rajan has been using of late to relive these realities. A Short Passage of Fire shows a man browsing through a book in a library and a flame that starts spreading through its pages. What follows is a series of images – of war, public protests, advertisements – being consumed by the fire.
It was reminiscent of the influence of post-war art, cinema and poetry on Rajan's work.
What explains Rajan's entry into video art is his fascination for moving pictures. Moreover, sometimes, he wishes “to take a step out of my paintings in order to follow my interests in movies.” At the same time, he feels video art and painting are distinctly two mediums that address the same reality. “While a video offers sequence, a painting triggers imagination,” explains Rajan.
Trigger the imagination, his paintings certainly did. So, even a week after ‘Elemental', the imagination floats in a sky of reflections. Art for life's sake, this is.