Ram Kumar | Recent Works
20 January- 22 February, 2017
Vadehra Art Gallery is pleased to invite you to a solo exhibition by Ram Kumar which will showcase his recent works. The exhibition opens on 20th January 2017 at 6 pm and will be on view till 22nd February 2017. With one of the most significant art practices in the country, Ram Kumar’s works spanning six decades has made a tremendous contribution to Indian art. Born in Shimla in 1924, the artist studied Economics from St Stephens College in Delhi University before turning to art.
Ram left his job in banking to pursue his art practice in 1948 and went on to study painting in Paris under Andre Lhote and Fernard Leger in 1949. Ram Kumar was deeply inspired from the social realistic works of artists such as Pignon, Kathe Kollowitz and Andre Fourgeron in the early years of his career. His works have over the years progressed from his early figurative drawings to the depictions of his travels around the mountains and later Varanasi to the abstracted landscapes he has done since.
Like Richard Bartholomew noted about Ram, ‘’Though Ram‘s world picture has not changed since the 1950s his imagery has undergone a process of synthesis, refinement and rarefiction. This has been a process of sublimination. There has been a subtractive process at work, as it were.” The process in his work has always been a subtle reference to what came before, and even though the artist has not returned to the ‘figurative’ nature of his work since 1960s it is worth noting that his works continue to speak of the human condition. The abstraction in his work is also reflective of his keen technique and ability to transcend the depiction of a human body and still remain sensitive and humane. Through these recent paintings he opens up the space between a landscape and an abstraction while employing hues of earthly colors evoking a sense of movement, flight and an aerial perspective. Many of the works presented here resemble and refer to the forms and backgrounds of his previous paintings but continue to create a mystery for the viewers through a rich nostalgia of not only the past but also the known.
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. 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 otherworldly, 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.”
While he is well known for his work as a painter, Ram Kumar has also been writing stories and poems in Hindi and has been awarded the Prem Chand Puruskar for Meri Pyari Kahaniya his collection of short stories by the Uttar Pradesh Government in 1972 and the Officers Arts et Letters by The Government of France in 2003. He has also been awarded the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India for his contribution to Indian art.Ram Kumar has participated in various exhibitions in and out of India, including the 1958 Venice Biennale and the Festival of India shows in the then USSR and Japan in 1987 and 1988. Ram Kumar has held a spate of solo exhibitions at the Vadehra Art Gallery since the 1990s. The artist lives and works in Delhi.