The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art is pleased to present an exhibition celebrating the spirit of late artist K. G. Subramanyan who passed away on June 29, 2016. The exhibition presents to the viewers’ glimpses of the artist and his versatility as a thinker, pedagogue, poet, scholar, and an institution-builder. It includes 60 artworks from the KNMA collection, as well as some taken on loan from private collections, his writings, poems, and children’s book illustrations, reproductions of letters written to stalwarts like Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Jyoti Basu and Benodebehari Mukherjee, and a video of images and material from his archives digitized and facilitated by Asia Art Archive. His art practice embraced and expanded the use of an array of materials and mediums, where even scribbles, doodles, and sketches were instrumental in evolving an extensive visual vocabulary.
The exhibition also brings to focus his early works done in late 1940s and 1950s. According to the curator Roobina Karode, “This exhibition celebrates the versatility and fabular adventures of the legendary artist. It puts one in the company of the vivid storyteller, the pied piper, the puppeteer-magician who playfully tricked his images into performative gestures, animating them with the stroke of his brush. K.G. Subramanyan’s oeuvre represents conceptual richness and a remarkable deftness of his craft. His early works from the 1940s onwards emphasize his alert eye and receptive mind, responding to a spectrum of optical references from disparate traditions, evocatively drawing and painting schematic figures, motifs, signs and gestures, seeking equivalents of all experiences in a visual language. Our attention is drawn to the nuanced play between the graphic and painterly, precise rendering and freer brushwork, surface patterning and structural design, the decorative and expressive, working towards evolving a syncretic pictorial language. The formal and spatial articulation in Subramanyan’s work thrives on strategies of hide and seek, the opening of windows and closing of doors, prompting our gaze to peep inside and then step back to witness from a distance ‘the unfolding of multiple stories’. The exhibition brings together his first experiments in the medium of oil, for instance, in the Mother and Child painted in 1953, some works on silk and on board as well using gouache with a varnish. Viewers will enjoy the visual subtleties expressed in his reverse paintings on glass and acrylic, a medium he mastered and became an influence for artists from successive generations. The title of the exhibition ‘Anatomy Lessons’ thus addresses the artist’s play with figuration, his myriad ways of drawing and painting life as it unfolds each day, rephrasing and reconfiguring his observations and awareness about the natural, animal, and human world. In a literal sense and as a response to the precarious world he witnessed in his later years, it highlights human atrocities through dismemberment in this terracotta frieze, with fragmented limbs and severed bodies, ripped apart in the streets, visible not too far from the window of one’s home.”