Friday, December 14, 2012

A sculptor who fused modern visual idioms with his roots

Known for his monumental sculptures, Ramkinkar Baij seamlessly fused the European modern visual idioms with his own roots and ethos. Indian sculpture, largely limited to academic naturalism until that point, was greatly transformed by this master practitioner, who experimented with different themes, materials, and forms, switching between figurative and abstracts, all soaked in a deep humanism and an instinctive grasping of the subtle, symbiotic relationship existing between man and nature.

He generally worked with cement and pebbles for outdoor sculptures since he could not afford other costly materials, quickly molding the mix before it set and then carefully chipping at the cast. Later, few of his sculptures were cast in bronze using molds made from the original works.

A major retrospective of his works courtesy LKA, curated by sculptor K.S Radhakrishnan, incidentally one of his distinguished students, along with K.G Subramanyan and A. Ramachandran, included over 350 masterpieces drawn from various collections. After Delhi, it was hosted in Mumbai and Bengaluru.

The grand showcase threw light on this enlightened and highly creative soul, who was more of a wanderer, whose works reflected his larger-than-life persona, and symbolized his creative genius. On the eve of the retrospective, the National Gallery of Art also released a few significant publications, such as ‘My Days with Ramkinkar’ by Somendranath Bandhapadhyaya’ (translated by Ms. Bhaswati Ghosh); ‘Ramkinkar Straight from Life’ by Mr. Johnny M.L; ‘Ramkinkar’s Yaksha Yakshi’ by Mr. K.S Radhakrishnan;; and ‘Ramkinkar Baij’ by Prof. R. Siva Kumar.

The paintings, drawings, graphics and sculptures on view encompassed close to six decades of his fulfilling career. A peep into his rich artistic journey was further enhanced by diverse media interventions like photographic blow ups, texts, video clips and digital prints, in an effort to contextualize the artist, the person and his philosophy. According to K S Radhakrishnan, his curatorial venture aimed at flagging those junctures where Ramkinkar Baij met all those who had traveled before him, along with him, and even after him. It served as a context in which the post 1980s generation of artists see, accept, reject, or understand him.

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