Ram Kumar shared with his other contemporaries, in Delhi Shilpi Chakra and Bombay Progressive Group in 1950s, the dream of working in an art language that would be as comprehensible in London or Paris as in Delhi. He left for Paris in and studied painting under Andre Lhote and Fernand Leger. The human condition is the main concern of the painter manifested in his early works by the alienated individual within the city, from the city as well as from himself. In the transitory period, the lines gave way to sweeping strokes of blue and golden yellow lending buoyancy to the painting. In the early 1960s Ram Kumar took to abstract painting after a pivotal journey to Banaras and never returned to figural painting since then. Since 1960 his paintings have opened out in sweeps of ochre, viridian and aquamarine, as he mounted his contemplations of the cosmic cycle of creation, dissolution and regeneration. In his paintings of last two decades, a residual geography and a notational architecture have crept into his landscapes.
Ram Kumar’s landscapes often straddle the boundaries between abstraction and naturalism, quoting both but succumbing to neither. With a cool palette of aquas, blues, grays, and tawny yellows, his prime motifs oscillate between the numerous visitations to he made to Banaras and the open vistas that are in essence painterly vestiges of his life’s journey. By banishing the figure he was able to emphasize the nullification of humanity, and to deploy architecture and landscape as metaphors articulating cultural and psychological fragmentation. He translates the landscape in to a system of line, planes, blocks; their machine-edged logic, entering into dialogue with texture and tone, governs the distribution of significant masses over the picture space. One can see old gold and russet as the prime pallet with hints of blue, a yellow that verges on moss and a white light. The horizontal, hard, straight line is most intrinsic to Ram Kumar. He states his art is about the rediscovery of elemental origins within the lingua franca of the landscape, the translation and storage of essential energies, the spiritual properties of meditative melancholia.
In the eighties with his broken structures, Ram Kumar made a reference to an incipient violence and destruction. The recent landscapes are not representations of specific sights, but rather a complex hybrid of memories merged with actual sights visited over the years. “With all the transcendental lyricism of his landscapes, Ram Kumar has never been attracted to the unearthly or other worldly, his feet have always been planted in the terra firma, the palpable reality of the world. His ‘abstractions’ are not flights into the ‘unknown’ but like shifting beams of light they move, passing through the entire space of the painting, from one segment of reality to another, uncovering the hidden relations, between the sky, the rock, the river. The sacred resides not in the objects depicted, but in the relations discovered.”
The Artist lives and works in New Delhi.
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