Frieze Masters 2021: Spotlight: A. Ramachandran: A Victorious Storm

Regent's Park, London, 13 - 17 October 2021

A Victorious Storm: Early Works by A. Ramachandran highlights important works from Ramachandran’s early years before his artistic style underwent an iconic change, and is an unexpected yet powerfully resonant facet of the artist’s oeuvre. Indian art historian and critic R. Siva Kumar has called drawing the ‘handmaiden to the arts’, and in conjunction with his decades-long relationship with renowned Indian modernist A. Ramachandran, refers to drawing as a self-referential record-keeping – a birthing of the self. As a painter, Ramachandran is cherished for the ‘public’ scale of his paintings and murals, beset with an outward albeit sensitive conditioning towards his pastoral protagonists and his fluency with the natural elements. His drawings, however, are diarist renditions of self-discovery, where larger reflections of the world and its immensity must necessarily fragment into smaller images, over time transforming expression into vocabulary. Of particular interest are Ramachandran’s early drawings and etchings from the 1960s, paired against his oils on canvas from the same decade, which were a young man’s frenetic and anxious response to human suffering, revealing line as a personal property of his later and more public works. If painting is the pulpit and drawing is the diary, Ramachandran writes: ‘Just as a blind man comprehends his world through the sense of touch, I comprehend my world through the act of drawing.’ Using his sadhana, or the discipline of concentration, to improvise expression from observation, Ramachandran’s self-confessional early drawings suggest an angst-ridden, non-ascetic encounter with the perceived world. Informed by melancholic, Romantic ideas of the artist figure in historical Santiniketan, this period of work is an unexpected precursor to his later more tranquil visual language.