Online Magazine
Artist Profile3
A Ramachandran’s astounding artistic realm
Nature and natural elements have played a major role in A Ramachandran's artistic realm that has depicted myriad moods of the nature’s lush abundance, its air of decay and of course, and its inviting sensuousness. The bustling theatre of surrounding environment converts the space into a rich and complex tapestry creating a heightened sense of drama as dark clouds gather on the horizon, insects wheel about in the vivacious vegetation, birds dart out, squirrels skitter around, an alert owl targets its prey, a goat stands still in as if in a mood of stoic resignation, flowers gently float down, and in his paintings

The colors in his vibrant canvases are voluptuously seductive albeit never letting you forget the solid structural strength of the captivating composition. His dazzling visual descriptions precisely encapsulate the varied hues of the multi-faceted universe distilled carefully from the very essence of nature that he recreates. In a way, his paintings become a feast not only for the eyes but also for the mind.

Initially, A Ramachandran painted more in an expressionist style that was a poignant reflection of the angst of the prevailing urban life. The large-sized paintings, akin to murals, largely consisted of powerful figuration. His themes and style underwent a major change by the eighties. A tribal community based in Rajasthan with its vibrant lifestyle and ethos grabbed his imagination. Simultaneously, the forms and colors of the murals in the temples of Kerala greatly influenced his mode of expression.

Influenced to a great extent by Nandalal Bose, A Ramachandran is known to build a strong case for rich Indian aesthetics and for abundant usage of classical Indian images for articulating a unique ideological position. He turned to archetypal imagery drawn from Indian tradition after having resorted to the modernist vein for years. Also impacted by the turbulent socio-political scenario in Kerala, his home state, early works of the sensitive artist often represented violence, war and oppression. Human figures then in his work were invariably dismembered, more often than not headless.

Different key elements of Indian classical art have found a natural progression and integration in his practice, including several compound motifs and imagery, an array of decorative elements apart from the exuberance of intricate forms and a wide mélange of colors. As is known, the artist has revealed to have been immensely inspired by and profusely used captivating Kerala murals, Ajanta murals and Nathadwara paintings in his paintings. A deft decorative element much like the magnificent murals is noticed in many of his works. However, in most of them, these elements do not starkly stand out; they are more intrinsic, seamlessly woven into his figures’ jewelry and clothes as a core part of the overall dazzling design.

The veteran artist feels one of his monumental paintings, 'Yayati', could be treated as a landmark in his development as an artist since it allowed him to infuse aspects of classical proportions as well as postures in his body of work. Executed largely as a narrative, it prompted him to make use of mythological imagery laced with a contemporary touch and form.

Born in Attingal, Kerela, in 1935, A Ramachandran did his M.A.(Malayalam Literature) from Kerala University (1954 -57) followed by a Diploma in Fine Arts and Crafts, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan (1957-61), and later Ph. D. ('Mural Painting of Kerala') from Visva Bharati (1962 -65). The artist undertook a study tour of Japan in 1975 on Japan Foundation Grant. He moved to New Delhi By the mid-60s and joined the Jamia Milia Islamia in 1965 as a lecturer. He was attached to the university till 1992, and became honorary chairman of Kerala Lalit Kala Akademi in 1991.

Among his selected solo exhibitions are 'Bahurupi', Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi (2009); a show courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (2008); 'Recent Works', Grosvenor Vadehra, London (2008); ‘Face to Face’, Art Practice of A Ramachandran, The Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai and New York (2007-08); 'The Universe in the Lotus Pond', Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi; Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata (2006); Illustrations of ‘Gaudi’s Ocean’, exhibited at Nami Island, South Korea (2005); ‘Yayati’, Art Heritage, New Delhi (2002); ‘Icons of the Raw Earth, Part-I and II’, an exhibition of Bronze Sculptures and Drawings at Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi (1998); ‘Puppet Theatre’, Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi (1981), and ‘Retrospective’, organized by Kumar Gallery, New Delhi (1978).

Apart from major retrospective exhibitions organized by Vadehra Art Gallery, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi (2003-04), by Kumar Gallery at Art Heritage, New Delhi and at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (1983), his work has been featured in many noteworthy group exhibitions like 'The Path of the Lotus: Indian Art', Grosvenor Gallery, London (2011); 'Natural Bodies, Subverted Canons', Vadehra Art Gallery (2011); 'Freedom to March: Rediscovering Gandhi through Dandi', presented by Ojas Art at Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi (2010); '10 x 10', Gallery Threshold, New Delhi (2010); 'Paper Trails', Vadehra Art Gallery (2010); 'The Living Insignia', Gallery Ensign, New Delhi (2010); and 'Progressive to Altermodern: 62 Years of Indian Modern Art', Grosvenor Gallery, London (2009), among others.

Among the important honors and awards won by him are Padma Bhushan, Government of India (2005); Raja Ravi Verma Puraskar, Government of Kerala (2003); Manaviyam Award, Manaviyam Cultural Mission, Government of Kerala (2001); Gagan – Abani Puraskar, Visva Bharati University (2000); Parishad Sanman, Sahitya Kala Parishad, New Delhi (1991); Noma Award for Children’s Picture Book Illustration (1980, 1978): and National Award for Painting, New Delhi (1973,69).

Another interesting development in the artist’s oeuvre is a series of peculiar portrait heads of tribal men and women, especially since 2005. The small paintings, done in oil, carry iridescent colors that shimmer. Contained by sinuous lines that define the form, they radiate a mystifying energy. The head is generally shown up to the bust. The detailing of their ornaments, drapery and expression has a completeness and intimacy about them with a intriguing element of iconicity in the overall stylization.