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A romance with colour

Achuthan Kudallur's canvases radiate energy and come alive in a kaleidoscope of hues. A review of his works, which are on display at the Vinyasa Gallery till August 17.

IN THE present exhibition, which Achuthan Kudallur is holding in Chennai after five years, his romance with colours is heightened. The walls of the Vinyasa gallery are alive with kaleidoscopic and myriad hues that radiate from his canvases.

What attracts one on entering the gallery space is the huge canvas in dominant blue approximately 8" by 5" that captures one's attention. Unflaggingly pursuing his spirited intuitive search for truth in Nature in his painted expressions, he firmly believes art to be the creation of his interior world — a world internalised in terms of his childhood memories and similar cultural and other emotional experiences — not the expression or reproduction of the world.

Abstraction for Achuthan was a gradual process, moving from expressionistic delineation of arbitrated figures and colours to intuited shapes and calligraphic lines that dictate his works today. Abstraction in the contemporary context is very loosely employed implying that anybody can pick up a brush and create an abstract painting. And this misconception is reiterated by Achuthan when he says, "Many people feel that modern, abstract art is easy because the painter is not obliged to demonstrate a high degree of craftsmanship and that it allows one to hide behind the excuse of deferring perceptions."

And towards this what precisely marks his works is the quality of artistry blended with craftsmanship. In its aesthetic use, abstraction in visual arts concerns discarding representational or mimetic subject matter to be replaced by other concerns. For Achuthan, the `other concerns' inflect the sights and sounds of his native village by the riverside where the culture manifest in its rhythmic sound beat or the dance forms of Kathakali and Theyyam create corresponding images. He allows these abstract conceptions to translate in terms of shapes mediated through his dynamic and vibrant colours.

In creating the abstract shapes and forms it requires cerebration, an intellectualisation equivalent to solving a trigonometric rider/problem. A process in this direction, according to Achuthan, leads one to posit shapes and discover new vocabulary to materialise them. And in this respect, no two abstracts of any artists can ever resemble, remaining distinct as their individual signatures.

Achuthan, who came to painting through writing in Malayalam, is an intellectual who introspects on diverse realities. This complexity comes to have valence in his present series of works having undergone dissimilar experiences that eventually inscribe his individuated artistic language. His colours have resonance and immediacy, which with spontaneity scripts the character of his painted frames.

And for Achuthan colour was not mimetic tied to the definition or description of an object, but an autonomous concept perceived by him as a refraction of reality. In reiterating the autonomy of colours, he was simultaneously attempting harmony in their employment through related juxtapositions.

The resultant ambience of unified rhythmic totality translates for Achuthan as dematerialised colours. This concept when extended would transform to become its absolute i.e.light.

Said Achuthan, "Absolute colours lead to absolute light." Light makes operational the colours and a `successful painting is radiant from within otherwise it is dead'. He works tirelessly, his brush loaded with thin colours creating transparent strokes allowing for permutations that are purely poetic, as imagination and intuition consort to be instruments of lyricism. Initially he applies a thin coat in either red or brown and when partially dry, he wipes it with a cloth or textures it by making an imprint of pressing into the semi dry paint. These, he says, are his creative springboards allowing for continuous process of linking, slashing, adding, subtracting forms and shapes.

In the present exhibition, Achuthan has explored creatively the monochromatic organisations especially the green, which has the freshness of Kerala's naturescapes. The predominant hue seems to be red with its dexterous exploration of shades and tints. What strikes one here is his use of the white background in one particular painting creating a pristine effect on which the calculated but intuited shapes and calligraphic lines are orchestrated.

This duality of calculated and intuitiveness remains an integral aspect of his creations. For Achuthan is a thinking artist, and it is said that in any creative process, an intense feeling takes over and the artist's hand is guided by this act. His intensity is his confession of despair, yet as shapes he holds them in the tranquillity of his mind when his whole being becomes ablaze with rage and anxiety. And this when translated on his canvas approximates the imagery of happy and joyous forms.

Achuthan, who was highly figurative in his early canvases (early 1970s) and later graduated to abstraction through a process of reductive imagery and arbitrated colours, is looping back to create dialectic of figuration that irrevocably clings to his mental landscape and once again precipitates. His canvases implicate this clearly. Though the figuration is not sharply defined, it is numinous in consonance with his space. A brilliant colorist, Achuthan handles and manipulates colours as one breathes. It comes with easy facilitation grounded as he is with his intensity and passion for his creative statements. Everything for Achuthan is passionately felt and he extends this emotion to his canvases.

Achuthan Kudallur's abstractions are mounted at the Vinyasa Art Gallery, Music Academy premises, TTK Road, till August 17.

ASHRAFI BHAGAT

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