The Bhil women and lotus ponds continue to inspire A Ramachandran
She could be a princess in her palace, says A Ramachandran of his work The Brides Toilet where lotus buds bloom in the backdrop and a bride is dressing in front of a mirror. One of the works in his ongoing solo at Lalit Kala Akademi,the figure merges majestic charm and rustic appeal that define most protagonists in Ramachandrans work. She also belongs to the Bhil tribe. These are people who laugh despite their problems.
Unlike the urban middle class there is no continuous nagging, says Ramachandran,75,as he charts his association with the Bhil that runs down several years and recalls innumerable trips to villages near Udaipur that he visits after short intervals. The best time to go there is the monsoon, he says adding That is when it is lush green,unlike the rest of the year. Ironically the natural variation is also a metaphor equated to the fate of the women in these villages in the canvas The Lullaby for an Unborn Child. The beauty of the girls is unmatched when they turn twelve-thirteen but the duration of this phase is as short as the monsoon. Marriage and children follow,along with other responsibilities, he rues.
It is not just the inhabitants of the place who draw the Delhi-based artist to Udaipur though. The lotus ponds that dot its villages have also become an integral part of his work and the current exhibition is no exception. It is a recurring theme but no two lotus ponds painted look the same, he smiles. The most appropriate work is Trilogy of Color . If at dusk the lotus leaves turn into shades of purple,at dawn the blue sky reflects on them and at noon it turns lush green.
In another work First Drops of Monsoon,the artists association with the lotus pond merges with the miniature tradition that he often turns to. Radha waits for Krishna with her legs folded and head drooping. Ramachandran,meanwhile,makes an appearance on the canvas in the form of a fish. If Im part of the artwork people will remember how I look,even if they do not remember my name, he quips. The title of the exhibition Bahurupi also comes from a sculpture where Ramachandran is the central figure. He is the gana or heavenly attendant and the mukhalinga associated with Lord Shiva and also represents the integration of man and animal in the form of goat and tortoise among others.
In 2003 National Gallery of Modern Art hosted a retrospective of his work,but with this exhibition it is reiterated that the faceless and oppressed figures that defined Ramachandrans early works will never return. I was an angry young man then. Painting about issues does not help,the contribution has to be at ground level, he says,turning to the Bhil women on his canvas.