A Ramachandran, one of our most distinguished artists, has ceaselessly experimented with visual
language for more than 40 years. Painter, sculptor, graphic artist and designer, Ramachandran's
vision and style has changed from sombre expressionism to lyrical and metaphysical engagement with
nature. In the process, the artist has explored diverse scale and mediums.
On the occasion of a retrospective mounted at the National gallery of Modern Art showcasing the
works done throughout these decades, a rare view of Ramachandran in the totality of his oeuvre is
Written by Prof R Siva Kumar, the s book, a set of two volumes, is a well- analysed, incisive
study of the life and works of the multi—faceted artist. The author's lucidly written text is
enriched by more than 500 reproductions and a selection of rare, historical photographs.
book may well be considered a model in writing about an artist and his work, and will be of
immense value to coming generations of art scholars and connoisseurs.
Born in Kerala, and educated in Kerala and at Santiniketan, R Siva Kumar is presently professor of
Art History at Santiniketan. He has written extensively on modern Indian art and his publications
include The Santiniketan Murals, Santiniketan:
The Making of a Contextual Modernism, and K. G. Subramanyan: A Retrospective. He has also curated
two major exhibitions for the National Gallery of Modern Art, and , co—curated Tryst With Destiny
an exhibition of post—independence Indian art for the Singapore Art Museum.
I am delighted to present this exhaustive publication on the works of A Ramachandran, which has
been in the making for the last three years. I thank him for his support and enthusiasm in
materializing this ambitious project.
Every time I see the Lotus Pond, I am reminded of the spiritual oasis deep within oneself. The
painting is a tranquil, self- contained space, set aflame by sensuous greens, blues and reds. The
gradual folding and unfolding of the lotus leaves as they sway gently in the monsoon wind and
their evocative, velvety surface fills one with a sense of longing and joy.
If there is one word that sums up A Ramachandran’s works, it is celebration, a celebration of
colour, of form, of syncretic traditions, of various pictorial languages. Ramachandran picks his
sources and references with careful deliberation the translucent greens and yellows of the Kerala
murals, the classical voluptuous forms of his woman figures, the facial features inspired by
Rajasthani tribals and brings them together with remarkable facility.
It is important to note that Ramachandran has discarded as much as he has gathered in his work. In
fact, very few artists have made as drastic a shift in their painterly career as he. Till the
1980s, he painted distorted, muscular figures that spoke of alienation and rebellion. And then
suddenly almost without warning, he switched to painting these part—mythical, part- ideal
landscapes that celebrated the beauty of nature and rural simplicity.
I think of him as one of the few contemporary Indian artists who understood the potential of the
decorative elements in a painting. He foregrounds them in his work with disarming honesty Much
like the traditional miniature painters, he suffuses the painting with an environment that is so
intimately felt and so palpable.
Palpable like the monsoon breeze blowing over the lotus pond. . . .
I wish to thank Prof Siva Kumar for his meticulous research and the rare insights that he provides
on the artist, and also my colleagues Sonia Ballaney Suresh Nigam, Suruchi Chona and Vidya
Shivadas for their help.
As Director of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, I am extremely proud to host a
retrospective exhibition of Prof A Ramachandran, one of the most distinguished artists of our
country. The exhibition encompasses a vast and definitive selection of the diverse modes of
creative expression of the artist comprising his mural—like paintings, sculptural installations,
graphics, drawings and other areas of allied interest including book designing, stamps, ceramics,
writing and illustrations of children’s books. A visual feast celebrating 40 years of dedicated
work of the artist awaits the viewers of this retrospective. This has been achieved through
generous loans from some of the outstanding collections of major collectors of this country.
Prof Ramachandran is one of those few artists, who have a command over European, Indian and Ear
Eastern visual traditions. His style, however, reflects his own distinctive idiom that traverses a
course from that of an angry young expressionist to the metaphysical representations of the
essence of nature. The artist’s intervention embodies an iconographic coat which embraces
metaphorically an Ear Eastern spirit. No doubt, he shows the inspiration of other visual languages
but in the end, he expresses his own way of seeing and recording the world around him. His
pictorial imagination reaches out to the viewer creating an atmosphere of enchantment.
True to the Kala—Bhavana tradition in which he was nurtured as a young artist, Ramachandran found
several channels of expression for his artistic skills. Like the masters of Santiniketan
Rabindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij and Benodebehari Mukherjee he wanted to touch
every aspect of life with these assimilated aesthetic sensibilities. Thus he brings to all facets
of creative expression on his canvases, his formidable gifts as artist and designer.
For Prof Ramachandran, art practice is a combination of pure instinct, emotion and intellect with
glimpses of sardonic wit. Steeped in the sense of history in art, he knows exactly what he wishes
to contextualise in his work. Following the footsteps of his guru Ramkinkar Baij’s depiction of
tribals around Santiniketan, he has given to contemporary art a unique, iconic representation of
the tribes of Rajasthan. in one way he has successfully revalidated tradition yet keeping to the
spirit of contemporary art practices of our time and confronts the elite with a heroic vision of
Prof Ramachandran’s deep understanding of literature as well as classical and folk music leaves
nuances on his paintings, whether it be in flash of literary allusion or in the flow of lyrical
lines sinuously arranged into a rich organic explosion on the canvas. it is not hard to link the
temper of his work with his wide cultural sensitivities.
I am also personally thankful to Prof Siva Kumar for his painstaking efforts in writing the text
of the book, Ms Rupika Chawla for curating the show and Ms Ella Datta for editing the publication.
l am thankful to all the lenders and contributors, who have very graciously agreed to loan their
precious possessions for the successful curation of the show.
Special mention should be made of Mr. Virendra Kumar and the other directors of Kumar Gallery who
have contributed both for documentation and exhibition by lending a major body of works belonging
to the artists early phase and photographic material for reproduction. Then there are Ms S Jaiswal
and Dr Sudhakar Sharma, Secretary Lalit Kala Akademi, who have also helped by lending
representative works of this period.
Another important contribution to this exhibition is from Mr E Alkazi, who was kind enough to lend
the most significant and monumental work Yayati for this show.
Mr Kito de Boer is yet another collector whose contribution of three important recent works, along
with the collections of Vadehra Art Gallery Mr Aroon Purie, Mr D S Brar, Mr Misha Vadhera, Mr
Rahul and Ms Manisha Baswani, Mr Raj Liberhans, Director, Indian Habitat Centre, Ms Rekha Mody Ms
Rupika Chawla, Mr Vikram Lal, need to be specially mentioned. And finally my thanks to Ms Chameli
Ramachandran for loaning the Ramachandran family collection.
Last, but not the least, I thank my joint Secretary Dr C T Mishra, Mr Umesh Kumar, Deputy
Secretary and Mr S K Kapur, Under Secretary for all the assistance they have rendered in
supporting the exhibition in its totality I congratulate the staff of the NGMA for their tireless
efforts in the endeavours of the NGMA to celebrate this retrospective.
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