Artist KN Ramachandran believes real stories are found on the streets. Alongwith contemporary art by his son, he is exhibiting vibrant snapshots of street musicians, village markets and temple towns that hark back to a bygone era
For artist KN Ramachandran, the real school of art was out on the streets. Choosing not to get involved in the family's grocery business, Ramachandran ran away from his village in Tanjore (currently Thanjavur) with just Rs 300 in his pocket when he was 15. He enrolled at the Kumbakonam Arts College but a lack of funds led him to drop out and start painting movie hoardings for a living.
A Mridangam player from the street musician series by KN Ramachandran
The 75-year-old artist admits that the occupation marked a turning point for him and helped him learn the basics of art. Over the years, he has drawn myriad paintings, and is known for his series of paintings on boats, markets and street musicians.
Ganesha from the sculpture series
Known for bringing out the hidden beauty in the seemingly mundane, his artworks capture the vibrant colours that permeate a vegetable vendor's basket, the sheer beauty of a beggar woman nursing her child or the terror when a boat is tossed and turned on the choppy seas. Hours of observation and painting from memory or sketching on the spot ensured that the paintings were life-like and accurate.
Ramatomy by Karthikeyan, which dissects the body of Lord Rama
At the exhibition, titled Papa Ramachandran and The Prostitute Boy, you can check out 35 paintings by the artist and his son Karthikeyan Ramachandran. The title of the exhibition pokes fun at the fact that Karthikeyan is a commercial designer, who sells his art. The event will mark False Ceiling Art Gallery's inaugural exhibition; the gallery is owned by Karthikeyan.
The idea to start the gallery came when Karthikeyan was scouring for larger locations to accommodate his father's artworks. He came across a Bandra bungalow that had massive ceilings and display space on the walls and the rest is history.
"While my father's oil paintings realistically depict street grit and veer towards South Indian kitsch, my acrylic paintings are more futuristic and reflect the generation gap," says Karthikeyan (34), admitting that his father inspired him to paint. "There is a lot of precision in his paintings, from the tuck and fold of the sari to the minutest of expressions," he adds.
Ramachandran admits a lifetime spent making hoardings ensured he developed an addiction for colour. "My artworks have a certain dreamy movie poster feel to them but they are realistic depictions. I chose to showcase the life on the streets as I was inspired by the vivid colours and the sheer energy at certain spots," he observes.
Unlike his father, Karthikeyan has chosen to focus more on his interpretations of a futuristic existence and his paintings reflect war and human frailty. One of his prominent paintings include Ramatomy, a painting that depicts the human side of Lord Ram, literally by showcasing his anatomy.
While Karthikeyan loved collaborating with his father, he is happy to be in his own space. "There is a generation gap, so while my father portrays a bygone era, my art is more contemporary allowing people to have the best of both worlds," he concludes.