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Vivid reflections of a contemplative artist
NIDHI GUPTA  8th Dec 2012

t was after witnessing the violence of the 1984 Hindu-Sikh riots in Delhi that artist A Ramachandran's worldview underwent a sea change. His early faith in the capability of art to bring about social change, which he essayed through portraits of tonsured, tortured human beings, gave way to a new belief in the cathartic aspects of art. It was then that he turned to nature and mythology, possibly in search of some inner peace, evident in his ongoing exhibition Dhyanachitra at the Vadehra Art Gallery.

Though none of these works are new, they speak of a life-altering transition in the artist's sensibilities, both on the ideational and expressionist level. This is an oeuvre that pays homage to watercolours instead of oils, and to finding calm in the idyll instead of issues pertaining to the urban milieu. Essentially, these works, spanning from the latter part of the 1980s till 2009, are Ramachandran's personal tribute to beauty, aesthetics, and humanity.

"[Ramachandran's] Dhyanachitras are not images of contemplation but images arrived at from contemplation of the empirical reality. They recreate a personal world – idealized, stylized, and furnished with precise aesthetic formulations and meanings, celebrating the artist's vantage point," says art historian and curator Roobina Karode.

The personal nature of Dhyanachitra is amply visible in every frame, which the artist himself inhabits — as devout, tortoise, snail, fish, bird, root, meditator, muse, creator, and spectator. In his many avatars, he arrives on these exceptionally vibrant scenes — be it the lotus pond, a source of regenerating life, or the temple, where devotion becomes the mainstay for all in the frame – pandit, god, trees, moths, and praying women.

What stands out about these canvasses is the depth and vast palette of colour employed to highlight the beauty of our world

What stands out about these canvasses is the depth and vast palette of colour employed to highlight the beauty of our world. He tapped this upon a visit to the Bhil districts of Rajasthan, which stood in stark contrast to the lush but cloying vegetative cover of Kerala, his homeland. "Rajasthan was magical in opening up a whole new world to me. People in colourful attire stood out against the sharp and clear landscape," says Ramachandran.

The images have an engaging quality – one can't help but get lost in the layers of colour and lines. He plays with two-dimensionality as much as with mythological stories. All of this plays out in the backdrop of beautiful, carpet-like motifs, perfectly etching the narrative, be it of him lying on a bed of arrows or of the umbilical tree growing from his navel.

"In the Dhyanachitra series painted in 2008-09, we see the artist leaner and older, as one who has been through illness and sensed the mortality of life," notes Karode. Even in this figurative twilight of life, the paintings will continue to remain personal, as the 78-year old bequeaths them to his children. "These are works that I intend to give my son and daughter who live in the US and Canada respectively. I wanted to show them in India before they are gone forever," says Ramachandran.

Venue: Vadehra Art Gallery

Date: Till15 th Dec, 2012


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