Portrait of an Indian Artist

Artist A Ramachandran takes on various avatars, from a chirping bird to the wise tortoise, to showcase a "pure India" in his latest show

He lives in a world of folklore and mythology, surrounded by Bhil women and mythical creatures. If, as Krishna, he wears a dhoti and is lost in playing the flute while gopis dance around him, he also appears as Bhishma of the Mahabharata on a bed of arrows. A Ramachandran does not merely borrow from mythology but transports it to the present day, where he is a protagonist and a part of the epical narratives. "I paint for the Indian audience and these are characters familiar to them," says the Delhi-based artist, who is having a solo show titled "Dhyanachitra" at Vadehra Art Gallery.

As guests ponder over his paintings at the show, the artist says that most of these works have been a part of his collection from the 1990s. "These are works that I intend to give my son and daughter who live in the US and Canada respectively. I wanted to show them in India before they are gone forever," says the 78-year-old.

The works are trademark Ramachandran — vibrant watercolours with colourful narratives and well-defined lines. The motifs range from his proverbial turtle avatar to the lotus pond that, for him, has come to symbolise regeneration of all life. Some of the self-portraits have the artist a tad more aged than before. On most occasions, he has his eyes closed and sits in a yogic posture. "This was the period when I was suspected of suffering from cancer and was recuperating after an operation," he explains, adding, "For me, these works were contemplative, for the audience these would be meditative. The works do change over the years with different observations and experiences."

What remains the same, though, are the surroundings. Ramachandran has moved far from the turbulent '60s when his work depicted violence, suffering and misery. His current oeuvre is rooted in the colours and forms of murals of the Kerala temples and the Bhil community in Rajasthan that remains largely unaffected by urban transitions. So, if the 1998 work, Prospective Brides to Baneshwar Mela, shows women dressed in finery waiting for their grooms, in Rituals of Lal Dhaga, Ramachandran becomes part of the ritual where red thread is tied to trees for the fulfillment of wishes. In his turtle avatar, he takes the form of the base of the floral tree surrounded with women. In Waiting for Bus at Eklinji, he is a bird perched on a tree with several others, and in The Orbit, he is a snail watching a woman seated in the green patch.

"I want to depict the India unaffected by industrialisation, the India that we are losing, the pure India. I want to document it before the encroachment of all our villages," says the Padma Bhushan awardee.

"Dhyanachitra" is being held at Vadehra Art Gallery, D-40, Defence Colony, till December 15. Contact: 24622545

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