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Artist Profile1
Fascinating oeuvre of a talented painter-printmaker
Considered one of India’s leading young painters and printmakers, T.M. Azis is keen to experiment with new media and techniques. Ubiquitous objects and common people surface in his amazing painted realm that seldom exudes a grand décor. They still carry a touch of class and grandeur in the midst of simplicity. There are neither decisive tactics, nor fixed artistic devices in his peculiar mode of working. It’s more of a spontaneous outpouring on the artist’s part as he allows himself to be soaked by places and people around him and real-life drama he often encounters.

His work is mostly figurative in nature. The paintings may revolve around what might be outwardly ordinary, everyday occurrences, deeply contemplated over. The human figures in his painting are often in sync with the other elements. The figures or objects act as symbols that spin around allegories as visualized and conceived by him. Done in bright hues, the paintings incorporate strong individual personas giving rise to a subtle enactment of visual form.

Born in Trichur, Kerala, he was always interested in art. He joined for pre-degree studies, but gave up after a year and enrolled himself at a fine arts college in his home town, but found the methods to be too academic and conventional. The early failures could have put him off of drawing and painting for good. Instead they only strengthened his resolve. He completed his B.F.A. (Painting) from College of Fine Arts, Trivandurum (1987), and later did a Master of Fine Arts (Painting) from Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi (1991).

Moving from his idyllic village to study printmaking in Trivandrum was the first of many significant shifts in his frame of reference. It was like an ‘opening to the entirely different world’ for the artist who was a keen observer of the city life, imbibing influences from it. His first significant show was hosted at the fine arts college gallery, Trivandrum (1986), whereas he had his first solo in Bangalore at the Chitrakala Parishath (1989). After his early studies and a couple of solos, he set out for New Delhi, intending only to travel initially. With the encouragement of renowned painter-sculptor A. Ramachandran his interest gravitated towards the painted canvas during his Masters.

Apart from a series of solo shows since the 1980s, T.M. Azis’s work has featured in several group shows like 'Next...', Amelia Johnson Contemporary, Hong Kong (2010); 'Evidentia', Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore (2009-10); 'Vicissitudes of the Constructed Image', Tangerine Art Space, Bangalore; 'Think Small', Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi; 'Beyond the Form', Bajaj Capital Art House; Visual Art Gallery, Delhi and Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai; 'Mining Minds', Chaitanya Art Gallery, Kochi; 'Life Is a Stage', Institute of Contemporary Indian Art (ICIA), Mumbai; 'The Root of Everything', Gallery Mementos, Bangalore; 'Entity', M.E.C. Art Gallery, Delhi (all in 2009); 'Hot Shots', The Viewing Room, Mumbai (2008-09); and 'Beyond Boundries', courtesy Arushi Arts, Delhi among others.

During the formative years, he mainly used mixed media like watercolors, acrylics, pastels, oil etc on both canvas and paper. Later he turned to acrylic and oil on canvas. Another significant phase of his career was marked in 2004-05. The fascination with negative space within images unraveled itself during this period. In part, this was related to his re-thinking of perspective in 2002-03. He stayed away from painting to work as a photographer with artist CF John and dancer/performance Tripura Kashyal in a couple of installation/art projects. The enlightening experience re-introduced an awareness of compositional constraints of space evident in his later works, as an essay by Phil Psilos (TM Azis- Artifacts Amplified; August, 2007) noted.

The facets of this dynamic shift were amply evident in a solo show courtesy the Soulflower Gallery, Silom Galleria, Bangkok. The write-up mentioned: “Many painters and printmakers have experimented with presenting a pixilated visual landscape as a feature of the digital age, and it would be no surprise if Azis, working in India’s information technology capital, was also drawn to this approach. However, it stands out from much of the ‘clutter’ of digital-traditional art crossovers, retaining its novelty in part owing to its innocence - its refusal to manipulate the underlying image - and its rejection of the ‘photo-shopper’s’ compulsion to edit or delete.”

Significantly, retaining the drawing as the focal point of his oeuvre, the artist looks to build engrossing painted works through amplification of form and the addition of color and texture. The artist invariably carries a sketchbook with him to keep scribbling, doodling or casually sketching random figures, abstracts or still life. All this is part of a larger artistic process. He goes through these scribbles and builds on the ideas further, creating the final sketch for paintings. Apart from many preliminary sketches, he also takes photographs that may be incorporated in a piece.

He has widely traversed fine art territory of both North India and South India, skillfully incorporating both into his vivacious oeuvre. Not very keen to be associated with one particular style, he looks to absorb new trends and also to study the new environment/places/people around. He keeps pace with the fast-evolving new digital landscape. According to him, if an art form demands a particular expression/medium, an artist must extend his style accordingly. He draws his influences from today’s popular media that reflect rapidly changing times. Some of his more recent works focus on presentation of outlines juxtaposed with ‘beautiful emergent forms’ that largely result from amplification of antique photos, engravings, and stamps. Summing up his priorities, T.M. Azis has stated: “Drawing is dominant in my work over time, whether graphic or realistic work, I see it as a drawing.”