Sitting against a large work-in-progress canvas in his East Delhi studio, he jovially says, ‘ I started out as a young and angry man almost 50 years ago but now I am a happy artist.’ That contentment is writ large on the 78-year-old world renowned painter-sculptor’s work. A. Ramachandran started out with portraying urban angst through his paintings before he shifted his glance towards the intricate Kerala mural arts and simple and joyous Rajasthani tribe- Bhils.
You have been bestowed with great honours such as the Padma Bhushan for your artistic excellence. As an artist what was the most fulfilling moment for you over the last 50 years?
I am happy when I paint. No other honour can be equated to this feeling; the happiness I get is a spiritual experience in itself. When I put a blank canvas in front of me, I am struck with a terrifying state of mind; my first stroke creates ripples on the surface that make me rhythmically carry forward the painting.
You studied Malayalam literature before being initiated into art. How did this interest develop.
As a serious medium of expression I understood art only when I went to study at Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan. There I saw the great masters at work and realized it’s a life search. Rabindranath Tagore once told my teacher, Ramkinkar Baij that whatever you see in life, catch it by the throat and don’t leave it till you get it. Once you get it, never look back. I carry forward these teachings as I capture the throbbing elements of life in my work and block them out of my vision once the work is complete.
Your work seems to carry a continuity with an element, a creature peeking out from a corner. Who is it?
That creature represents me. It is what I call Ramdev- a form that Bhils in Rajasthan worship. When I am gone and people look at my work, if they say something bad, you will see tears running down my face. When they say something good, you may trace a smile.