Thursday, July 25, 2013

‘As Within…so Without’

Gallery Art Musings presents a joint show of paintings by senior artists Ram Kumar and Ganesh Haloi. The two are considered among the most accomplished abstractionists in India. The former from New Delhi and the latter from Kolkata have devoted themselves to the activation of the non-representational painted surface for several decades.

Both continue to renew their chosen idiom with an admirable energy of inventiveness that is matched by a magical richness of emotion. Ram Kumar’s paintings open out in sweeps of ochre, viridian and aquamarine, as he mounts his contemplations of the cosmic cycle of creation, dissolution and regeneration.

An elegy for the loss of landscape
An accompanying note explains: “A residual geography and a notational architecture creep into the grandeur of the entropic universe: stray signs of settlement and activity surface through the wreckage of a shattered world. Ganesh Haloi’s paintings encode an elegy for the loss of landscape; in their kaleidoscopic evocation of rivers and hills, marshes and lakes, they speak of the cartographies of a homeland that can be recovered only in longing. His works are lyrical hymns to the natural world, its splendor recalled through detail and notation, the fragment rather than the vista.”

Haloi’s art transits between the moods of festivity and pensiveness: in its festive aspect, it celebrates the self’s dissolution in the cosmic panorama; but in more pensive mood, it communicates the difficulty of crafting symbols with which to sign of the struggle against the treacheries of experience.

Quest for an indigenist tenor
Ram Kumar, like many of his confreres among the first generation of post-colonial Indian artists, including F N Souza, M F Husain, S H Raza and Akbar Padamsee, combined an internationalist desire with the need to belong emphatically to their homeland. This need prompted an interest in the construction of a viable ‘Indian’ aesthetic that bore a dynamic relationship to an Indian identity.

With Ram Kumar, this quest for an indigenist tenor has not meant a superficial inventory of ‘native’ motifs offered as evidence of a static and essentialist Indian identity. Instead he demonstrates that a painter can enact the innermost dramas of his culture while maintaining the individuality of his performance. Ram Kumar’s art, which has proceeded through an alternation of joyous expressivity and brooding reticence, plays out a crucial polarity of emphasis in the context of Indic culture: that between samsara, the sensual participation in the world of events, and nirvana, the ascetic blowing-out of desire.

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