K. M. Adimolam (b. 1938)
Born in 1938 in Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, K. M. Adimoolam’s natural aptitude for drawing at an early age made him move to Chennai in 1959. There, under the influence of the sculptor Dhanapal, he enrolled in the School of Arts and Crafts. After completing his Diploma in Advanced Painting in 1966, Adimoolam started a series of black and white portraits of Mahatma Gandhi. Sketching from photographs of the great man, he finished nearly a hundred drawings that moved over 60 years of the Mahatma’s life. At about this time, he came in contact with Tamil writers and began an association with them, illustrating their works after which he took up oil painting. Color came into his life, causing him to move from the figurative to the abstract. Adimoolam now works with equal ease at drawing and painting, combining the two to produce a large body of work.
“My canvases are neither representative of nature nor the perception of my mind. My works are not bound with words; they are purely concerned with vision. A vision that tries to reveal some untold truths from ‘Nature’,” he adds. It is a truth told through hues that undulate across the canvas. In his own
words: “ I interpret it through colors, without focusing on any aspect. No preconceived imagery has impeded my spontaneous interplay of colors. They create the life, verve, void and texture, and inherent sense of energy. My innate optimism permeates through the colors as the joie de vivre.” Adimoolam’s canvases partake of his inner energy and vision, emerging as an extension of his mind that seems to put down color without referring to the artist himself. “At least for half the stage of a painting, I act as a tool and only after that I overcome this challenge,” explains Adimoolam.
That is the main reason for the spontaneous and untrammelled quality of Adimoolam’s canvases that seem to carry the viewer into a journey through space. As he questions: “What else can art depict except nature and people, the two inseparable elements?” K. M. Adimoolam passed away in January 2008.
Akkitham Narayanan (b. 1939)
Born in Kerala, Akkhitam Narayanan studied art at the Madras College of Art and Craft, where under the tutelage of the noted painter K.C.S.Panicker his art philosophy was truly shaped. Observing his adoption of many a religious symbolism into the scheme of his pictorial language, he realized the
limitation and possibilities of the intended ‘indigenous art lingua’. Recognizing the fact that the palpable religious symbolism could degenerate into another convention, which could help the proliferation of ‘ritualism’ in art, the artist consciously chose a path where the religious symbolism could demystify itself and become a part of the high-modern abstract language that defied regional and ritualistic boundaries. Developing an indigenous art became a pivotal issue for Akkitham Narayanan while he was staying in Delhi during mid 60s. In late 60s, he went to Paris on a scholarship to study art there and settled down there about three-and-a-half decades ago. His decision to settle down in Paris had made a lot of difference in the artist’s perceptions. His canvases became more and more refined. Irrespective of the medium, he experimented with colors and formal rhythms. Collapsing the figures into minimal forms, he naturally arrived at the field of geometric patterns, forms and shapes. Triangles, squares and circles, like individual instruments in a musical ensemble, started falling in place. Suggestions of the elemental aspects like fire, water, air, earth and ether started playing hide and seek in constructive designs of geometrical forms. Creative experiments that spread across almost four decades have refined his visual linguistics. Despite the conscious blocking of visual narratives from within the frame, a closer look at Akkitham Narayanan’s works reveal that they are geometrical constructions, rather than ‘formless’ abstractions.
According to the artist, geometry comes from earth, a form of universal system, where everything appears simple and straight and therefore, rigid. But if we were to look at it in subjective manner, the perspective would change. Akkitham Narayanan’s creations are abstract in character, reflecting a deeper
understanding of the nature and its varied colors and moods. The forms and colors that come repeatedly in his works remind the viewer of the chanting of a hymn, reverberating with the essence of life spirit.
R. B. Bhaskaran (b. 1942)
R.B. Bhaskaran is by far one of the most respected and talented artists to participate in the Madras Art Movement of the 1960s. This distinguished and intellectual artist was among the first in South India to rebel against the concept of ‘Nativism’ propagated by K.C.S. Paniker, the idea that one must consciously evolve an Indian style by introducing Indian motifs and themes into one’s work. For Bhaskaran, this seemed a futile endeavour, one restrictive rather than enhancing for the artist. He believed strongly in one’s Indian-nesss being an instinctive by-product of one’s work. For Bhaskaran, to define what is exactly Indian in his art is to implicate him and his personal understanding of his life. For him, this artistic catalyst within him contextualises each and every mark of his brush as entirely Indian. His rebellious nature can also be seen in his skilful leaping from one subject matter to the next throughout his career and his wanting to revise those genres of Western art history that have impacted on the East so forcefully. One moment, his still-life paintings remark at the 17th century works of Diego Velasquez and their future alter egos – the Cubist portrayals of objects by Pablo Picasso and the colour/shape experiments of Paul Cézanne. The next moment, Bhaskaran attends to the Western tradition of family portraiture upheld by the masterly paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. Bhaskaran deliberately
overlooks this long tradition and finds inspiration in the staid, though symbolic, marriage photography displayed in most homes in India. Most well-known is Bhaskaran’s signature work, the beloved ‘cat’ series.
Starting as a sketch of a wandering cat in his studio, this interest soon developed into an obsession with the creature. Now after three decades of painting the animal, the cat has become to many a metaphor for the artist himself: astute, intelligent, charming and unafraid, particularly of boundaries and limitations.
A principal at the Government College of Arts & Crafts for five years, and before that a teacher for twenty-five years, Bhaskaran in his retirement was recently awarded the position of Chairman of the Lalit Kala Art Akademi, a cultural body for the whole of India. There is no artist more deserving.
The similarity between Bhaskaran and his paintings hits you in the face at once. Both are rugged, pleasantly rakish and unusually dynamic. In their deep browns and grey-blacks, there is a tribal character to the paintings of Bhaskaran. In the way the faces and other elements are delineated, there is a certain directness. “My paintings will remind you of the elaborate facial makeup done by some African tribes.
They are placed in deep shadow with light from a distant source striking one side of the face. They are sensitive and appear rather contemplative,” he says. Bhaskaran has also trained in the art of painting frescos at the Bhanasthali Vidyapeeth in Rajasthan. “That is why you find so much of tribal icons and motifs in my work. Tribal art is not only steeped in an ancient culture and civilization, but is also very close to nature. And nature inspires most artists,” says Bhaskaran. R B Bhaskaran lives and works out of Chennai.
Bibekananda Santra (b. 1968)
Born in 1968 at Hoogly, West Bengal and educated at Kala Bhavan, Viswa Bharati, Shantiniketan, 1992. Binekananda Santra has had many solo exhibitions in India, Singapore, Switzerland and France. He has participated in group shows in India, USSR, Spain, UK, USA, Switzerland and Germany. He has also taught and participated in workshops in India, France, Germany, Switzerland and Singapore.
He has executed many commissioned pieces and participated in several art fairs and camps. His works are in the collections of individuals and corporate houses all over the world. He lives and works from Pondicherry.
Gurdep Singh (b. 1975)
Gurdeep Singh has been working for more than 10 years in non-representational art. Gurdeep’s abstract works are a brilliant symphony of brush stroke, colour and formlessness. To some, Gurdeep Singh’s work brings to mind a brilliant musical composition, where the interplay between a musician and his instrument can transport you into some unknown realm. The playful use of colour fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity and gives it an idea it was not possessed before. In an abstract oeuvre the painter uses vibrant shades of oils and acrylics on his canvases playing with light and shade that give his surface its serene appeal despite some busy and entangled renderings. His fine lines, geometric structures, unspecified forms and measured brush strokes help create textured playful ambience. Elements such as maps, calligraphy and mathematical formulation add to the dynamics of the art work that appears to adorn a more universally accessible contemporary aura.
Born 1975 at Kurukshetra, Gurdeep Singh is a post graduate gold medallist from the College of Art in Delhi, followed by a residency in Vermont, America. Winner of Gold Medal from Punjab University
and H.K. Kejriwal award from Chitra Kala Parishad, Bangalore besides others, Gurdeep’s work has been exhibited in many solo and group shows at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Munich, Singapore, Hong Kong and New York amongst other venues. He also participated at the Singapore Art Festival. Gurdeep lives and works in Delhi.
Hamid Bin Amar (b. 1971)
Hamid Bin Amar has received his BFA in drawing and painting from the JNT University Hyderabad and has also studied painting and printing making from the Central University of Hyderabad. Hamid works in a expressionistic style, laying the colors in impassato. He has participated in several shows in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Baroda. The artist currently lives and works in Hyderabad.
John Tun Sein (b. 1957)
Born in 1957, John Tun Sein received his Diploma in Painting from the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, in 1985. Following his graduation, Sein received a Lalit Kala Akademi Research Grant Scholarship in 1988-89.
Speaking about his work in his essay “The Painter and the Path”, fellow artist Prabhakar Kolte notes that “John Tun Sein is an artist who has never been in a hurry for anything in his life or his profession, patiently traveling to and fro between his creativity and solitude. He places his paintings in a way that would navigate us on the same journey. His works reflect evidence of his meditative accomplishments through painterly solitude. This is completely disclosed in his canvas for true appreciation by the viewer as well as the critic.”
Kolte continues, “I call him ‘Little Buddha’ – a believer in non-violence, calmness and quietness, sympathy and love that guide him to discover what goes unnoticed in human life. The tranquility is his default and painting an innate desire. His incredible consistency projects a larger symphony interwoven with forms and cordial colours for the eyes to listen. An experimentalist by nature, he shows acute concern for the
intangible aspects of contemporary sensibilities remolding them into sensory colour fields; thus surfing on a wave and emerging out of several complimentary forces of form and formlessness. For John Tun
Sein, the canvas is the gravitational centre of his life. Though he paints introvertedly, what reflects in his work is the silent participation of everything that exists around; the air that keeps moving in and out or the light that changes the tonal qualities of the atmosphere within and without. They all mark their impression on him and his artistic act. He believes in ‘expanding totality’ that begins in his personal perception and grows out to enhance itself in the outer world through his works. Therefore, there are no definite signs, symbols or clues, not even the slightest indications or suggestions in his expressionistic paintings. Instead it is just a magnetic visual that needs to be felt by the viewer on his own.”
Sein’s work has been featured in several solo exhibitions including those at Apparao Galleries, Chennai, in 2010; Gallery Art Motif, New Delhi, and Aicon Gallery, Palo Alto, in 2007; SWR, Heinrich/Stroebel- Haus, Baden-Baden, in 2005; Galerie Mueller and Plate, Munich, in 2000; and Pundole Art Gallery, Bombay, in 1999. He has also participated in several group exhibitions in India, Germany, Belgium, Poland, the UK and France.
Pradep Puthor (b. 1965)
Kerala-based contemporary artist, Pradeep Puthoor’s art is dedicated to a fantastical world that is entirely his own. Strange creatures and imaginatively designed buildings and structures, colourful and playful, clutter his canvas. It was the high acclaim he received for his art that convinced the artist that his work had a value for others as well as himself. In 1992, at the age of 27, Puthoor received the Kerala Lalit Kala Akademi’s first national award for a painting titled ‘Air-Airy’ (1992). A year later in 1993, the Human Resource Development Board for the Government of India gave him a Junior Research fellowship for painting. It was only then that he devoted himself to painting full time and gave up his day jobs. In 1997 he received the British Overseas League award for his work titled ‘Mangled Mother’ (1997)- now in the Singapore High Commission’s collection in the UK. His art took a dramatic step forward after a trip to the UK where he was exposed to the work of the Old Masters and the thriving London art scene. In the following years his works received further critical praise and several awards including a fellowship from the prestigious Jackson Pollock Foundation in New York.
Few know that Puthoor used to be an illustrator and graphic designer in Bombay who painted at night as his own private passion. Illustration is certainly no surprise when one looks at his art today. Many works demonstrate the distinctive look of this skilled artform: precise linear draughtsmanship and flat, bright, highly choreographed colour. In his recent set of paper works , one can see the most minute of lines kept consistent in density and clarity. Even more striking however is the sense of vitality he can bring to the image; each line seems animated leaving us unsure if we are the animators or if it is the gift of the artist. This idea of viewer participation is significant to his work. Puthoor says that his paintings lie‘in the middle of a reality and imagination. All the elements are woven together in a tapestry that reveals to us a composition of art that touches an onlooker psychologically and causes him to evolve, that in itself is as real as any experience. And that gives the paintings life. So the viewer in turn becomes as much a creator as the artist.’ In this manner the artist relies on the viewer to react to each work so that it may come alive and take on a larger meaning. The magical mechanics of achieving a Utopian civilisation appears to be a common factor of much of Puthoor’s work. Structures have bird heads at their peak, reminiscent of totem poles and other tribal imagery (a common motif in his work) though have a futuristic character too. This alternate urban universe has an immediate madcap appearance, however, because of the sea’s peaceful horizon in the background and the harmonious composition, the bizarreness of the scene soon relaxes into normality before the eye. The ‘pink soul’ city appears mesmerising, inviting us to forget its unreality.
Puthoor waves a wand over us leaving us spellbound by the possibility of an idyllic urban existence. In some works, Pradeep investigates the pervading eroticism of all nature’s objects. In some phallic imagery is rather lucid, in others the sexual message comes through motifs such as thorns, venus flytraps and strange erogenous-looking forms.