‘Women seen and remembered’: KG Subramanyan’s  euphoric splash of colours

The artist has captured a range of women’s moods in his frenzied lines and splotches of bright eye-catching colours that leave a strong impression on the viewers

Girish Shrivastava

The noted painter and muralist late KG Subramanyan’s ongoing extensive exhibition titled “Women Seen And Remembered”, at Delhi’s Triveni Kala Sangam showcases a panoramic theatrical display of the synthesis and symbolism of a meticulous matrix of intricate ornamentation, rooted into our tribal, folk as well as traditional court painting and modern art.

The exhibition almost resembling a retrospective of his creative journey spanning several decades has been mounted by Art Heritage & the Seagull Foundation for the Arts.

KG Subramanyan’s canvas exuded felicity and dexterity with colours. His quaintness and naivety in composition, size and palette—everything reflects a vivid vivaciousness and lust for life.

‘Women seen and remembered’: KG Subramanyan’s  euphoric splash of colours
‘Women seen and remembered’: KG Subramanyan’s  euphoric splash of colours

Arranged chronologically, Subramanyan’s works in the exhibition move from the slumped, domesticated body of the women of 1950s to reveal how she transforms into a self- aware coquette in 1970s, presenting herself in her full blown and stark sensuality. Even some of his incomplete, abstract renditions of the woman’s body, show a slow, subtle change in the form, visible to the enthralling spellbound viewers as they walk through the gallery.

Some find his women heavily influenced by mythology and folklore. Each section of artworks is supplemented by the poems written by the artist on women, that are spread throughout the exhibition, complementing a full picture of the women in the viewer’s mind. A recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, KG Subramanyan’s over 300 drawings and murals on women explore the enigmatic female body with a self-assertive liberation.

The artist has captured a range of women’s moods; sadness, innocence, mother, childlike, haunting, quiet, buoyant, coquettish, mermaids, bird-like, goat-like, witty, mischievous, grave, domestic, evocative, provocative, sensual, mythical, playfulness, enchanting and enigmatic—all in his frenzied lines and splotches of bright eye-catching colours that leave a strong impression on the viewers.

In a conversation with the noted art historian R Siva Kumar in 2014, the artist had said, “I am by nature a fabulist. I transform images, change their character, make them float, fly, perform, tell a visual story. To that extent, my pictures are playful and spontaneous.” His sketches of Durga, Saraswati and other goddesses and that of ‘matsya’ (mermaids) are the best examples of pictorial fables. Subramanyan’s another striking area is painting the woman with an animal and the animal often appears to be male. His teasing imageries with fluidity of Calligraphic brush lines are a real delight.

His both coloured and black-and-white drawings with brush, pen ballpoint and marker pens with a variety of mediums as ink, watercolour gouche and crayon reaffirm his mastery over a multiplicity of mediums.

Unlike the tall and robust women of MF Hussain and asexual women of Tyeb Mehta, KG Subramanyan’s way of depicting a woman is certainly distinctive. Art historian R Siva Kumar, who has closely followed Subramanyan’s oeuvre of artworks through the decades, says that his images of women are quirky and they spring from his mind, “each built from a flurry of gestural marks, each enlivened by a spark of animation and together buzzing like a hive.” His lines are strong, flowing or staccato, complexly cross-hetched, boldly defining the female body.

And what a curatorial splendour! Over 300 artworks with the blown-up-photographs of the artist, installed on the walls, especially painted brightly with monochromatic and diagonal fields of colour, the exhibition mounted wonderfully in marvellous dramatic designs executed by the director of Art Heritage Amal Allana, who also happens to be a veteran modern theatre person, is a great visual treat.

The Exhibition will continue at Triveni Kala Sangam till March 3,2019

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