Pandemic on the canvas

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Thirteen new paintings by renowned artist A. Ramachandran will be on display in the capital from Sunday, giving an insight into how a prolonged Covid-19 lockdown induced phenomenal experimentation in the content and style of his work.

Being organised by Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) at two venues in the city, the solo shows will mirror Ramachandran’s latest spell of creativity underlined by visual grandeur and subtle expressions that also helped him counter the melancholy around the worldwide pandemic for almost two years.

Titled ‘Subaltern Nayikas & Lotus Pond’, one exhibition will begin this Sunday (November 14) at Triveni Kala Sangam, while the other will start the next day at VAG’s Modern Gallery in Defence Colony. The show at Shridharani Gallery of Triveni Kala Sangam will span 17 days (November 14-30). The one at VAG Gallery will start on November 15 and last till December 12.

“Both exhibitions will serve as a sample of the master painter’s extraordinary style,” says VAG Director Arun Vadehra, who founded the gallery in 1987.

Of the 13 paintings, eight will be on the ‘Ashta Nayikas’. However, this series by Ramachandran tends to break the exalted status the heroines (nayikas) enjoy in the ancient Natya Shastra written by Bharata Muni.

“It’s not just beautiful people who fall in love,” notes 86-year-old Ramachandran, about the paintings that show faces of Bhil tribal women of northwest India.

“Hence the word ‘subaltern’,” he adds.

Art historian Rupika Chawla points out, “Black humour and irony are intrinsic to Ramachandran and to his creative programming,” adding that the artist typically goes for “playful use of visual expression”.

As for the ‘Lotus Ponds’, the sprawling water-bodies of Rajasthan have for long been another obsession of Kerala-born Ramachandran.

“The artist’s ‘Lotus Ponds’ are not preachy,” says Siva Kumar of Santiniketan from where Ramachandran undertook advanced art studies in the early 1960s. “They invite us to engage deeply, to see, and to acknowledge.”

Ramachandran, who hails from Attingal near Thiruvananthapuram, did his Masters in Malayalam literature before leaving for West Bengal in 1957 to enrol as a student at Rabindranath Tagore’s famed institution, Visva-Bharati.

He has been a Delhiite since the mid 1960s, having taught at Jamia Millia Islamia. A Padma Bhushan awardee, he is also a winner of prestigious honours such as the Kalidas Samman and the Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram.

–IANS

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