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Rajan Krishnan’s landscape as a memorial passage
Rajan Krishnan’s art practice reflects his extreme sensitivity to immediate environment, echoing the artist’s attachment to his socio-cultural ethos. He employs landscapes or the natural elements from his surroundings as his principle protagonist to put across his innermost aesthetic proclivities whether in protest, homage or celebration.

His painted realm alludes to an altered landscape owing to occupation and subsequent desertion of manmade settings. Instinctive and incisive images of the talented Kerala based artist depict the rapid disintegration of a serene landscape, caught in a long time warp; a landscape in transition; one he has traversed for long.

His works, which represent a post-agricultural landscape, are quite often fragmentary visions of a dry, sterile landscape. It appears to be an echo of a bygone era that once throbbed with life. There is an unmistakable dark side to them. When idyllic representations are subverted by his artistic perception, the landscape turns into a site of haunted desolation. Building up a sense of disturbance rather than evoking mere pictorial escapism, the artist’s Embryo constructs a space of silent and unfathomable devastation.

Born 1967, in Thrissur district, Kerala, Rajan Krishnan completed his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Calicut University, Kerala. He then decided to follow his heart and joined the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram. He completed his B.F.A. (painting) in 1994, and got a Master’s degree at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University, Baroda in 1996. After finishing his formal education, he chose to return to Kerala and work from there.

To begin with, his works were more realistic and more direct, featuring landscapes typical of his hometown’s topography. While his early life experiences and fond memories of a remote village in his home state Kerala deeply influenced his early works, the sentimental nostalgia gradually gave way to a more critical and hard hitting cynicism, as he started to note the overwhelming and irreversible transitions occurring in his environment.

His hyper-realism draws from a sense of one’s shared inherited histories and the subjects may range from childhood ‘memory’ of local vegetation to imaginary landscapes. Keen to experiment and innovate, his sculptural materials/ constructions are often an extension of his paintings. Explaining his evolution as an artist, he states, “More recently, I began to become aware of the impact wrought by the forces of change upon it. Both the disintegration of natural decay and destruction caused by the manmade development have hit it simultaneously and unsettled it. More than any outward scar, what this does is leave behind a massive lesion within...”

Apart from a select solo exhibitions, including ‘RE-VISIT’, Gallery OED, Kochi (2008); ‘Ore / Substances of Earth-I’, Bodhi Space, Mumbai (2008); ‘Memoir’ Bodhi Art, New York (2007); ‘Enroute’, Bombay Art Gallery, Mumbai (2006), and ‘Little Black Drawings’, Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi (2004), he has featured in several group shows in India and internationally. These include ‘Kashi – 10 Light Years’, Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi (2008); ‘Summer Rites’, Gallery Beyond, Mumbai (2006); Gulf Art Fair, Dubai (2007); a group show of Indian artists by Gallery Sumukha (2006); ‘New Colours of Sumukha’, Bangalore (2005); ‘Double Enders’, curated by Bose Krishnamachari (2005); ‘Remembering Bhupen’, Kashi Art Café, Kochi (2003); ‘Cross Currents’, Daira Centre for Art & Culture, Hyderabad (2002); and the annual show of Kerala LKA, Kochi (2001), among others. Bodhi Art exhibited his works at Art Singapore (2006).

His show ‘Memoir at Bodhi Art, NY in 2007 reclaimed the sites of memory and their often contrasting relation with vestiges of history. His ambiguous and open-ended images posed pricking questions, rather than presenting answers. In his ‘ORE Substances of Earth’, a multi-media show, the artist used paintings of various scales - large and small - metal and terracotta constructions, and audio-visual mediums in order to modify the way we tend to experience a particular space. The work was meant to raise a memorial about earth or landscape - a personal and collective reflection on tragedy and resilience.

In alluding to the curious crisscrossing vectors of space and time, the landscape clearly functions as a memorial passage: a recollection of things both imagined and witnessed. In the process, Rajan Krishnan underscores the cyclical forces of creation and destruction as his images continue to oscillate between visions of the present, future and past.