Rooted in his art

Artist Rajan M. Krishnan at his studio in Kochi. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

In an unconventional way, a style true to the fraternity, friends of artist Rajan M. Krishan, who passed away on February 11, much before time, rallied around him when he took ill last year. On hearing the news, they gathered together from different parts of Kerala, rented a place near the hospital and stayed there round-the-clock. As he grew in strength the hum of their sighs whispered with hope. “He has begun to draw,” they remarked with relief.

A gallery recently opened its maiden show with a few works by him. Another gallerist, who worked solely with Rajan, prepared to exhibit later this year, ‘Fairy Fences’, works done during the recovery. But sadly Rajan could not complete these last sketches done from his hospital room and later from his home in Irinjalakuda. He passed away suddenly.

While writing, conceptualising and drawing from his hospital bed, he wrote about the healing properties of colours, of the drawings that were making him happy, optimistic and confident. At another point he wrote of his sketches being in sync with his landscapes and the gigantic trees he was working on. He ended a note – ‘Let’s see’.

Rajan leaves behind a shocked silence amongst his well wishers and the art world, for 47 is no age to go. Besides, as an artist, he was at the acme of creativity. In the last five years, before he took ill, his art had grown and had enhanced much like the jack fruit- laden trees that he, of late, was painting with visible joy.

Possessing an understated demeanour, Rajan was no talker. He never projected himself or his art. Instead he let it do the talking. He reasoned simply. The miniatures that he began his career with were because his studio, at that point, was too small to even conceptualise a bigger work. As he grew in confidence and his coffers grew, his canvases became bigger and his works found positions in top galleries, homes and museums across the world. While his works went all over (Singapore Art Fair, India Art Fair, New York to name a few), he made a conscious choice to remain rooted to the land he was born and bred in. The subjects of his heart remained true to the soil, the images that had enriched his life as a child and as a young man. The mango, the sparrow, the jack fruit tree, the pineapple, the railway track, the red flags, the protestors in demonstrations, Marx…Kerala remained important to him.

In ‘Earth’ and ‘Little Black Drawings’ he painted an environment in danger of destruction, but soon after he set aside his pessimism to paint nature at its most exuberant instances. ‘The rose garden’, an incomplete work, one of his last ones, has potted roses in bloom. ‘Plant of Sustenance’ (2015) is about the gigantic trees, heavy with the weight of 172 jack fruits, which he fondly remembered during his recovery.

At a time when, like the domino effect, artists of his time were moving out of Kerala, to seek a life, believing that there was no future for the artist here, Rajan, bucking the trend, chose to stay in Kerala. That choice became a moot point among his compatriots. But he did not let this self-chosen insularity come in the way of expanding his idiom. Far from it, his language turned freer, bolder and at par with the movements in the global contemporary and visual art scenes, with his subjects remaining intrinsic and home-grown.

His art celebrated life in Kerala – its landscapes, its fruits and trees, its sounds and sights as no other artist of his age and group seems to have done or is doing at that scale. As he recovered he apparently said, ‘I have a strong right hand, a strong mind and strong friendships, and so I can draw’.

Rajan’s passing away leaves a void; a quiet man who spoke softly and always with a smile, he harboured a wealth of progressive ideas and a moderate principled stand on issues. Curiously when a quiet soul leaves, his absence is conspicuous. Senior artists are planning a memorial. The memories will be poignant; the space will feel emptier than it will be. The only respite in his departure is that like any professional who likes to go with his boots on, Rajan left while working on ‘Fairy Fences’. There could be no better way to go.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 7:01:12 PM |

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