Two symbols of spiritual tranquility found a unique convergence at this city of age-old multi-ethnicity, as an exhibition titled ‘The Mahatma and the Lotus Pond’ by illustrious artist A Ramachandran concludes here on the last day of this month.
Punctuated by two talks that added to the number of visitors at the venue in downtown Ernakulam, the 27-day event has been only the second solo show by the octogenarian Delhiite in his native Kerala.
“The exhibition has given the people of the state a rare chance to see the works of the globally renowned painter-sculptor,” said Nemom Pushparaj, chairman of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi (KLA), which has organised the event in association with Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) that brought in 91 works of the master from the national capital. “It’s a privilege for us to host the event. Momentous, I’d say.”
The October 5-31 show at KLA’s Durbar Hall Art Gallery was inaugurated by former minister M A Baby, also an ex-parliamentarian. The exhibition has been curated by scholar R Siva Kumar of West Bengal’s Santiniketan, which is also the alma mater of Ramachandran, 84. The Padma Bhushan awardee, who was born in Attingal near Thiruvananthapuram, pursued art studies at the Visva-Bharati University. An MA in Malayalayam literature, he had left Kerala in 1957. For the past 55 years, Ramachandran lives in Delhi, where he taught art at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Ramachandran’s first solo in Kerala was at the same Kochi venue in 2013, following a collaboration between KLA and VAG. “The artist has always had so much of trust in us, and vice versa,” remarked Arun Vadehra, owner-director of the 1987-founded VAG.
The ongoing exhibition, coinciding with the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma, features eight oil paintings, 56 watercolour-on-paper and 25 drawings besides two sculptures including one on the iconic Mohandas Gandhi that is central to a Gandhi segment featuring Ramachandran’s select sketches of the Mahatma.
The ‘lotus ponds’ at the show here are from Ramachandran’s latest works (from 2014) in the famed series which originated four decades ago. The veteran least insists that even his Gandhi segment is political. “I like to keep things subtle,” he shrugs, cryptically.
All the same, Prof Siva Kumar notes the exhibits tacitly portray Ramachandran’s wistful thoughts on environment and public life. The curator presented an October 6 talk alongside the show. Ten days later, art critic M L Johnny held a lecture at the venue.
Ramachandran is a winner of the prestigious Kalidas Samman (2018) and the Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram in 2003, a year after Lalit Kala Akademi chose him for a fellowship.