C.K. Rajan, K.M. Madhusudhanan, K.P. Krishnakumar, N.N. Rimzon, and Surendran Nair
Pondering their strong Marxist idealism, artists from the Government College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum/Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala in the late 1970s-1980s were convinced about the need for radical thinking and dissent, resisting neo-colonialism, prevalent superstitions and rituals, an obsolete education system and the commercialization of art. Their rebellious spirit of the time is revealed in the puffed rings of smoke from the burning cigarette, lost in thought portraits, reading books, dreaming utopia while participating in acts of protest. Like nocturnal birds, they sat vigilant under the starry night, watching the moon in the sky, amidst the sensual lush landscape of Kerala, where the pond and the fields and the roadside shrine remained steeped in the mystique of the place. Sketching on tissue papers, painting on cigarette packets, making collages from newspaper cutouts and magazines, these artists continued to explore the intensity of charcoal, graphite and ink, and also the accessibility of prints. Inspired by literature, cinema and theatre, they shared stories, the recurrence of poetic symbols and world-histories, techniques and tools while seeking a range of expressive and aesthetic possibilities, each one alone, yet together. We see the absurdities of humanity unleashed in the black and white film-like stills in charcoal by Madhusudhanan, the dark, tragic soul of Krishnakumar’s heroic man, the subaltern figure of N.N. Rimzon amidst confining circumambulating boundaries, the political wit and satire of C.K. Rajan’s collages and the quirky whimsicality of Surendran Nair’s, sharpened through the witty play of words and images. Their growing camaraderie is witnessed in the portraits painted of each other and the spaces they occupied in the absence of individual artist-studios and financial support. The exhibition brings into focus the works of five artists who spent their formative years in Kerala and whose subversive art practice problematised the discourse of Indian Art in the 1980s and 90s.