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The turbulent and the serene

Akhilesh's works are closely inter-related and yet autonomous

The colours and contours of the Malwa landscape have been a source of perennial inspiration for Akhilesh.

"TO CREATE a painting is, for me, like living in this world your own way," said the renowned artist, Akhilesh, while in Bangalore recently for a show of his works. "A world where you have your own mountains, your own rivers, your own sky, your own colour, and your own laughter and tears, which on this surface affirm that limitlessness is a limited space, where creation has no bounds."

Sports and games

His father was a well-known artist and art-teacher, but in his childhood Akhilesh was more interested in sports and games. "Actually I hated painting," recalled Akhilesh. "In the 11th standard, I chose painting as one of the subjects, because I was poor in other subjects as well." His talents were almost immediately recognised and in no time, he completed his diploma in fine arts, with flying colours. "I was privileged to be tutored by a teacher like Chandresh Saxena — a unique personality because he was trained not only in Shantiniketan but also at the J.J. School. So he brought the best of Eastern and Western art to his students."

Akhilesh's first solo show in 1976 was in his hometown, where he did a huge 104-ft-long sketch: "No one in Indore had seen anything like this before. Although it shocked people, my work also received good reviews and appreciation." He has been a regular exhibitor since then, earning laurels and applause from art critics, connoisseurs and collectors in India and abroad. "My very first exhibition in Bombay in 1986 was at the Jehangir Art Gallery, where all the works were sold out within half-an-hour of the opening."

Akhilesh was quick to add that for an artist, market should be a by-product and not the primary concern. "I've never been trapped by the market. Very often, I intentionally cancel myself out in my works, to avoid becoming a trademark or a formula. I have never chased the market; contrarily it is the market which has followed me!"

Power of abstraction

Explained the 48-year-old on his choice of abstracts: "In college, I was very proficient in figurative drawings and paintings. I still remember this professional model who had been sitting for nearly two decades of students. I made a portrait of his, and instantaneously he wanted it be sent to his brother in Pakistan because he thought no one else had brought out the true character as I had done. It did not take me long to realise the limitations of figurative paintings. There were no challenges in realism and when I recognised the power of abstraction, I knew that I would pursue it. In my works, one would not find any profound messages, meanings or interpretations of life. My images are there on the canvas and there is nothing beyond the boundaries of the frame."


Says art critic, Ashok Vajpayee: "Akhilesh's paintings are revelations of self. They are presences, whose physicality, the corporeality has warmth. The artist merely knocks at the door of mystery, the unknowable, the inexpressible and the revelation, that is art, appears as if from nowhere. The painting is a warm location, a structured residence, a resting place for the revelation." In his works, Akhilesh creates simultaneity, a continuum of presences, which are closely inter-related and yet autonomous. "They could be quiet adorations, discreet but focused."

Akilesh acknowledged that the colours and contours of the Malwa landscape have been a source of perennial inspiration to him: "I am also influenced by Indian miniatures, which store so many hidden meanings and communication within them." He is very comfortable living in a quiet city like Bhopal rather than in Mumbai or Delhi. Living and working in smaller cities has its own charm and advantages. There are few distractions and one has more time and energy for work. A close associate of masters such as M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza and J. Swaminathan, Akhilesh spends a couple of months in Paris every year with Raza saab. He is also writing a biography of M.F. Husain, whom he has known since his childhood.

Having watched the Indian art scene for decades, Akhilesh feels that top artists of the country should involve in more creative dialogues, discussions and debates. "Why are the senior artists so silent?" he wondered. And about the younger artists, he said: "They are easily given to self-satisfaction, instead of subjecting themselves to intense self-examination and self-questioning."

Akhilesh's first solo exhibition in Bangalore, The Turbulent and the Serene, concluded recently at the Time and Space Art Gallery.


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