RECENT WORKS OF K.G.SUBRAMANYAN (MANIDA)
RECENT WORKS OF K.G.SUBRAMANYAN (MANIDA)
Very recently an exhibition of latest works of K.G.Subramanyam, henceforth to be fondly addressed as Manida, was held at Nandan, Kalabhavana in the first week of February 2015. For some time now, this website Muktodhara, is trying to chronicle events in Visva Bharati, chiefly to highlight many aspects of this diversely beautiful University which do not necessarily get reflected in popular media. By doing so, at times we are compelled to discuss art, which is not actually our forte. Personally, I was a student of Physics, later a banker by profession, and hence hardly a knowledgeable person on Art. However, contrary to the present trend in Visva Bharati, where a professor in Physics does not really need to know his colleagues at the Art departments, as ex-students we however love to keep our cognizing parameters open, as the spirit of Visva Bharati should be. Hence, here I am, a graduate in Physics, hooked to Cricket in my student days with plenty of friends in Kala Bhavan till then, trying to interpret the art of a lovely human being, Manida.
The task at hand is daunting; one of the reasons being knowing Manida personally, it is very difficult for me to separate the human being from his art works. Manida is one of those very rare blissful personalities, that whenever I think about him, a big smile surfaces in my face. He has always been a wonderful joy to all who know him; we have rejoiced his expressions of art in Santiniketan along with his trademark one liner witty observations at the same breath. In our times, Manida has been the most articulate expression of simple and dignified expression of ‘joy in living’- the basic hallmark of existence in Santiniketan of yesteryears; unfortunately which has become very rare to come across now. First of all, let me express my deepest respect and a lot of thanks to Mainda, just for being the person he is.
So, writing about Manida’s art works is a genuinely tricky proposition for me. I observed Manida keenly when he painted the exterior of the Design Dept building at Kala Bhavana and when he covered the basic structure of the water soaked studio of Master Moshai Nandalal Bose with specially designed tiles. Both the works were interesting and intriguing to say the least.
The catalogue printed by Seagull Foundation on this occasion of the said exhibition has a record of a conversation between R. Siva Kumar (The doyen of art appreciation verse in Santiniketan) and Manida. Quoting from there-
“ R SIVA KUMAR:-Manida, in a lot of modern art, ess[ecially in India, artists are almost out of touch with historical arts of their own country. Of course, we can not expect a changeless continuity, but Indian art could still produce us with metaphors—it need not be entirely inaccessible.”
“ K G SUBRAMANYAM:- Strangely enough, a lot of our modern artists have a divided choice, To keep up with the world at large, and, at the same time, to preserve their cultural identity. This has kept them tied to the externals, meaning, to methods of statement or styles and their rapprochements. They have not gone deep into the traditional lore or their imagery; they have left it to the traditional artists.”
The professional art appreciation language can be a bit complicated for us, the naives. The very first impression that Manida’s recent works creates –is that he is a ‘folk lore artist’. I really do not know if in professional language there is any definition of a ‘folk lore artist’; but as folk lores of all countries managed to strike an immediate chord into our highly imaginative childhood minds; Manida’s works as always manage to strike a familiar chord within us. As every Child is precious to the Man, I have found Manida’s expression to be delectable strumming of the hugely imaginative childhood chords kept alive in a precious corner of our existence. He seems to be transcending the age and time factor quite effortlessly. This trend makes him more of an artist of the classical timeless mode, in line with greats of Santiniketan like Nandalal Bose and Binod Bihari Mukhopadhyay.
The flux of characters makes Manida’s art works hugely interesting. In recent times, we have become quite riddled with the stubbornness of artistic ‘monologues’; where we struggled hard to arrive at the plane of thinking of the artist; often the path of alignment with the artist and the common spectators like us veered off to unfathomable space snapping the communication link altogether. We, the naives, felt lucky when as spectators we could at least get into a dialogue with the artist. Manida’s art works actually creates a lot of stories, it is much more than a dialogue, it is actually a great conversation with society around. I am extremely thankful to him, that even in this age where artists generally strive hard to chisel out his own identity within a handful of space, Manida remains magnanimously interested to get into a conversation with the society around in a huge space. Well, in exchange we can only offer him love aplenty.
Is large scale social conversation popular in art? Or do artists need to get into his own specific grooves to have something unique to say? Does an artist need to prove him each and every time? Or is a ‘proof’ of identity necessary to be a citizen of the world of art? We have heard right from childhood that ‘art is for art’s sake’ and for nothing else. What is actually in stake, the art or the artist’s identity? These are several questions Manida can effortlessly throw up, aided by his witty smile, to all the budding artists of today.
Manida will be always a part of Santiniketan psyche, a position he has already achieved by virtue of his expression in art, by virtue of his simplicity and generosity, by virtue of his dignity and wit- two very difficult characteristics to combine together. Along with several of his students and admirers, I express my deepest respect to him as a common citizen of Santiniketan.
We love you, Manida.