On October 28, Emami Art announced the opening of the exhibition ‘The Songs of Reclamation: The Art of A. Ramachandran’. Curated by eminent art historian R. Siva Kumar, the exhibition is in collaboration with Vadehra Art Gallery. This retrospective-scale solo brings together a remarkable body of works by A. Ramachandran that includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, sketches and his original children’s book illustrations.
Born in Kerala in 1935, Ramachandran began to paint very early. However, he had made a mark as a Carnatic musician and completed an MA in literature before turning to art earnestly. Ramachandran’s early view of art was moulded more by literature than by paintings, especially by the works of the progressive writers in Malayalam. They taught him that art could and should play a role in transforming society. Ramachandran’s early work was a response to people scarred by the Partition he encountered on the streets of Kolkata and Delhi. Looking at his experience through his readings of Dostoyevsky, he saw the modern period not as a time of freedom, rationality and progress but as an age of violence and suffering, a time of darkness and absurdity.
Ramachandran’s engagement with sculpture has been sporadic but significant. Initially, he did single figures transforming Bhil women who lived in symbiosis with nature into nature spirits and personifications of seasons.
On the sidelines of the exhibition, a book launch took place on the first floor of the gallery. The event was graced by Richa Agarwal, CEO of Emami Art; eminent art historian R. Siva Kumar; Jogen Chowdhury; Paranab Ranjan Ray; Sonia Ballaney, executive director, Vadehra Art Gallery; Ushmita Sahu, director and head curator, Emami Art; and Ina Puri. Five books and one catalogue was launched — The Golden City, The Bad King Who Became A Good King, Jivya and The Tiger God, Dakiya The Mailman, Bhima and the exhibition catalogue Songs of Reclamation: The Art of A. Ramachandran.
Ramachandran’s interest in children’s books goes back to his days as a student in Santiniketan. While at Santiniketan, Nandalal’s illustrations for Sahaj Path drew his attention. A decade later, now as a mature artist, his effort to keep his young daughter and son engaged spurred Ramachandran to undertake writing and illustrating books for children. Besides India and Japan, Ramachandran’s illuminated books have been published in Korea, England, and the USA. The original artworks of three books are in the permanent collection of Kijo Picture Book Village, an international library and museum of picture books in Japan. He has also won UNESCO’s Noma Concours Award for Children’s book illustration. The show will be on view till December 31 on the ground floor, first floor and fifth floor galleries at Emami Art, KCC, at 777 Anandapur, EM Bypass.
Ramachandran is an old friend, I normally work with very few artists, but artists with whom I develop a close relationship with, so when I do an exhibition, it is also friendship and intimate knowledge of the art, with Ramachandran, the brilliant artist that he is, I can say the very same — R. Siva Kumar, art historian and curator
Getting Ramachandranji’s show to Bengal was a very big deal for us, primarily because his work has not been seen too much and also because I have been an ardent admirer of his work always. So we requested Shivada to curate his show. Look at all of these paintings, it’s beautiful — Richa Agarwal, CEO, Emami Art
Bed of Arrows: Water colour on paper, signed in English and stamped in Devnagari
Lotus Pond in Starry Night: Oil on canvas, signed in English and Malayalam
The Monsoon Wind: Oil on canvas, signed in English and Malayalam
Bahurupi: Bronze sculptures with mandala base. It consists of standing figures, goat, Mughalinga and tortoise
(L-R) Ina Puri, Pranab Ranjan Ray, Jogen Chowdhury, Richa Agarwal, Ushmita Sahu, R. Siva Kumar and Sonia Bellany at the book launch