Dr. Murali Sivaramakrishnan
MURALI SIVARAMAKRISHNAN— BELONGING TO EARTH
A MANIFESTO FOR OUR TROUBLED TIMES
We who belong are beset by sadness and longing…
Our world of the present is rife with over-representation. We live and move amidst objects and images that are culturally conditioned and manipulated. Every inch of our wakeful lives, every minute of our sleep is riddled with images, representing and over-representing our cultural situations overlapping all that we relate to. We do not see or hear or sense or taste or feel reality without the intermediation of our conditioned existence. There apparently is no way we can return to our essential selves, and in all, we are made to believe that there is no essence at all. So then what can art do? In the savage torpor of the present where each one among us is made to believe that there is nothing worthwhile to live for, and moreover, the general atmosphere is rife with indifference to strong emotions and heightened feelings, where the all-powerful technology and media churn out a constant addictive need for visual spectacle that keeps us sordidly preoccupied and nonchalant to life and living, where can the thinking artist turn to for evocative metaphors, suggestive images? The world of today is evolving into a global village wherein each one seeks but an egoistic self-satisfaction and narcissistic comfort like a compact disc set to a nauseating replay. But art is central to our living. It is an act of deliberation and constant seeking. It is fulfilment of all we desire. All art is made with a purpose and is an engagement with life and living. Art can break all rules and create fresher one. Each artist has his/her own idiom of expression. Some seek represented images, others turn inwards and explore on their own. Some imbibe their tradition others turn against the grain. Either way genuine art is always alive and vibrant. All art need not always create a product to be consumed or to be possessed. The genuine artist is always free.
I grew up in Kerala, and from my school days in the early seventies I was taken in by the explorative and explosive power of modernist art. I could not differentiate between the art of the west and east—not even when the power of the traditionalists turned the wave inward toward our own cultural mores and life. The language of art I found was something that would awaken from somewhere deep within and would surge forth with its own language and metaphors irrespective of where you were. Since I grew up in a conservative family profoundly religious and at the same time quite forthwith and modern in outlook, open to all modes of experience, I had the good fortune to be exposed to a huge variety of art forms—both spiritual and secular. Raja Ravi Varma’s evocative images of devi-devatas framed my first forms of aesthetic delight and imagination. I was moved by the lines and spatial expressions of KCS Paniker the doyen of the Madras School and his works provided the basic alphabets for my own inner search. The great wave of Indian modern art pioneered by the Bombay and Baroda schools as well as the vibrant and energetic school of Calcutta artists gave us dwellers in the deep south of India new and newer ways for seeking expression. I too painted landscapes and did figurative drawings. I was equally spellbound by the brush strokes of MF Hussain as well as Adimoolam. The idea of an Indian aesthetic as formulated by scholars like Ananda Coomaraswamy and others and the theoretical issues on tradition and modernity in the Indian context raised by KG Subramanyan of the Baroda school took me deeper into myself. My imagination was aflame with questions of history and labour and capital. All the while, the market was closing in on our generation. Artists rose to fame as they sold. Print and later the ubiquitous technological media created images of success and fame. As my society evolved I became more and more sophisticated in my language. The power of the framed art moved me and I set up my first solo show in 1987. After that I have expanded my boundaries of seeing and sketching. Wherever I travelled I made it a point to feel the vibes and throbs of that place and people. I always carried my sketch book along. I like making pen and ink drawings of people and trees. My bird books are filled with sketches of birds I have seen and of pictures I came across. My fifteen odd shows have been milestones in my aesthetic awakening.
I have labelled my recent series as Belonging to Earth.
In the late seventies, while an undergraduate, I got involved in the struggle for the protection of Silent Valley in Kerala. Wandering along the Western Ghats sketching birds and making watercolour landscapes provided me endless hours of pleasure. An intense awareness of nature and environment was all the while catching on like wild flames in my land those days. Years later my academic training took me into theorising the environmental aesthetic and I wrote several essays and articles combining my insights drawn from art and literature. As a teacher of literature I was specialised in the aesthetic of nature. Nature and the land ethic have continued to be my concerns in all my pursuits. In terms of the visual aesthetic I have veered into the abstract mode of expression as I found it conducive to my style. Lines, forms, and textures are allowed freely into my stretched canvas space. I love the rhythm of exploration as the hand is led on by the lines and the brush makes graphic voyages of discovery. I do not depict landscapes as we are wont to see; I try to bring earthly textures and the elusiveness of the spiritual alive on to my space. Belonging to Earth is thus an exploration into the relationship between outer nature and inner nature– an invitation to see into the depths of things, for the surface of nature is not like a thin skin-covering but a continuation of the vibrant inner life. A touch of nature leads one to feel the inner vibes of belonging to earth.