A Ramachandran is one of India's most distinguished and prolific artists who has ceaselessly experimented with visual language for more than five decades. His art is uniquely both contemporary and Indian in essence. Painter, sculptor, graphic artist, designer and art educationist, Ramachandran has explored diverse mediums and scales with a dynamic personal vision and distinctive artistic style.
He began this journey as an expressionist painter exploring the predicament of human condition and misery, that too, on a monumental scale. Already politically sensitized by his early life in Kerala, the poverty and suffering he witnessed on the streets of Kolkata and subsequently in New Delhi moved him to produce grim contorted human images, literally representing human beings as headless entities. Suffused with social imagery, his early works re-enacted themes of exploitation, oppression, war, human brutality, and political violence.
In stark contrast to the dark, tortured images of his older works, the latter half of his artistic journey has gradually shifted to a lyrical engagement with life and nature. The faceless, twisted male bodies were, to begin with, replaced by rustic, faceless female figures. Then, faces appeared and were combined with sensuous yet stylized human and natural forms in the epic painting Yayati. His more recent works celebrate nature and life in its myriad and multifarious forms. While a continuous preoccupation with forms and images along with experimentation with various techniques and mediums has wrought this transformation, frequent trips to the remote tribal villages in Rajasthan and study of Rajasthani miniature traditions have further redefined and reformed Ramachandranís visual language. Several aspects of Indian classical art have been integrated into his art, including compound motifs and imagery, decorative elements along with the exuberance of forms and colors. Ordinary tribal folk and the natural landscape that he continues to sketch in Rajasthan have been woven into the iconography of Indian classical art employed in his works. These integrative aspects also appear strongly in his recent life-sized bronze sculptures, richly encrusted with flora and fauna motifs.
Equally at ease with mural paintings on a very large scale and the intimacy of miniature paintings, Ramachandran has executed thousands of drawings in pen and ink. Likewise, the numerous water-colors that he has created by adding the many layers of thin washes of color match his large canvases in terms of diversity of colors, complexity of composition, and sensitive rendition of forms and images.
Ramachandran taught art for three decades, has written and lectured on art, and also designed stamps and ceramics. He has written and illustrated numerous picture books for children which have been highly acclaimed. Some of the original illustrations for these books are on permanent display at the Museum of Childrenís Books at Miyazaki, Japan.
Still inspired by the natural environs and people of rural areas outside Udaipur in Rajasthan and saddened by its gradual disappearance, Ramachandran continues to create an imaginary universe that bestows them the beauty, pristineness, and permanence he wishes for them.
Recent painting on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art
A latest, major lotus pond painting by A. Ramachandran titled ‘Homage to the Setting Sun’ (2016, 192” x 78”) is now on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art .
The four-panel work shows the exposed lotus seed-cups and stems turned towards the setting sun as nightfall approaches. As the sun moves to the west over the course of the day, lotus flowers change their orientation with it, while steadily shedding their petals. By day’s end, only the bare lotus rhizomes are visible above their large leaves watching the fading sun. This painting has been especially placed in the classical Indian Art section of the museum, amidst a chosen selection of early Buddhist sculptures from Sanchi and Bharhut, consisting of lotus medallions and rhizomes, yakshis, yakshas and Nagas. The display highlights the deep influence of various Indian art traditions on Mr. Ramachandran’s oeuvre and the recurring theme of the lotus pond in it. Sonya Rhie Mace, George P. Bickford Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art and Interim Curator of Islamic Art at the Museum, explains in her display note: The artist has tapped into the deeply rooted and potent symbolism of the lotus in Indian art and thought. It references the purifying power of life-giving waters. In Hindu cosmology, the lotus pond recalls the primordial ocean in which creation takes place and continues to exist after the time of destruction. Though his materials are Western, Ramachandran's techniques are akin to the gradual layering process used for centuries by Indian miniature painters which lends his works a depth and luminous glow.
In the adjacent room within the Indian Art section, three Sumi-e (ink wash) paintings by the eminent Indian artist, Nandalal Bose and a portrait of Rabindranath Tagore are on exhibit. Ramachandran received his training in art at the Kala Bhavana. Located at Santiniketan in West Bengal, this innovative art school of the Visva Bharati University was founded by Nandalal Bose. Inspired by Tagore's unique philosophy of education, he sought to develop a contextually grounded Indian modernism rooted in the diverse Asian art traditions.
The painting will be on view for till November 2018. On February 7, 2018, Mr. Ramachandran will give a talk on his art at the museum.
All images and content (c) 2017 A. Ramachandran and his management team