A Ramachandran belongs to the generation of Indian artists who began their careers in the 1960s and whose art was shaped by India’s post-independence experience.
Ramachandran’s early work focused on the predicament of peripheral men trapped in a life of unfreedom, irrationality and suffering in a world that swore by freedom, rationality and progress. The idea of committed art and the modern world as a place of absurd cruelty and suffering shaped his art from the 1960s to the early 1980s. That made his art an act of emphatic protest articulated on a grand scale, akin to murals, and brought him closer to the Mexican artists—especially Orozco and Siqueiros—than to the Euro-American artistic vanguards.
In the mid-1980s, disenchanted with his endeavour to change hearts through art, Ramachandran decided to begin anew after an encounter with the landscape and life of rural communities around Udaipur. In the marginalized Bhils, who lived a communitarian life in harmony with nature, he saw more freedom and awareness of social ecology. In his recent art, he might appear to be turning away from modernism and making a romantic escape into the pre-modern past. But on closer look, it is not difficult to see that he is reminding us of nature and everything else that made life beautiful and meaningful before we instrumentalized nature and man. Besides reminding us of what has been lost in our pursuit of progress, he is also alerting us to the need for re-enchanting the world. Viewing them at a time when we are staring at the possibility of a sixth extinction, his works assume a special significance for us.
Although he is primarily a painter, Ramachandran is also interested in expressing his vision in as many mediums and ways as possible. It has made him a sculptor, a tireless and brilliant draftsman, and an enthusiastic designer, especially of books for children. This exhibition offers a glimpse into all that.
- Curatorial text by R Siva Kumar