Artist Murali Sivaramakrishnan has many shades to himself as to his paintings, all inspired by nature
COLOUR AND CONNECTMurali SivaramakrishnanPHOTO: G. KRISHNASWAMY
Afirst look at his frames and the impressions are of swift strokes, an indulgent preponderance of greens and blues. Move closer and they seem to jump right out of the canvas.
Walk away and then an orange sunburst spilling over a row of lilac strokes warms your heart. Right opposite, an arresting canvas simply layered with many hues of blue conjures images of icy blue mountains, deep dark woods and mysterious oceans, plumbing the depths of the soul. Though most of his paintings are abstract, it is not hard to understand why Murali Sivaramkrishnan calls Nature his muse.
What is interesting is the artist has many shades to himself as to his paintings. Growing up in the seventies in Kerala, Murali is a sort of a Renaissance child, who revelled in a world of art, music, photography, literature, natural history and cinema in his salad days. Though his bread and butter come from his being a teacher, who currently heads the department of English at Pondicherry Central University, Murali says, “I am an artist who combines different roles and identities.” A published poet, literary critic, bird watcher and conservationist, Murali does don many roles.
“Back then I was part of the Kerala Natural History Society which was a forum for nature lovers. We had easy access to galleries, museums and to the masters in every sphere,” recalls Murali. His interactions with Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Laxman, M.F. Husain and Sunderlal Bahuguna (of the Chipko movement) have made him a richer man, he feels.
Clearly Nature inspires more than his art — as an academician, he sees ecology and the environment through a literary lens, something which also spurred him to found the Indian chapter of ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment).
The self-trained artist acknowledges that his works are greatly influenced by K.C.S. Paniker. “I could identify with Paniker’s progression from landscapes to abstractions, something which happened to me naturally.” Murali too started out with watercolours till he found his expression through abstractions.
“As a young man I helped with fetching and carrying when a gallery was set up for Paniker in Trivandrum. I touched the master’s paintings, which was an experience. I got to study his technique closely,” says Murali, whose enthusiasm is fresh in the retelling, even after decades.
Taking art closer
Some may dismiss abstract art as only for intellectuals, being difficult to comprehend, but Murali defends, “We are used to accepting landscapes and representations of reality because they are familiar, like a student who praises a teacher who teaches him what he already knows. The possibilities of abstractions are infinite and demand an effort to understand the artist’s language.”
But the more complexity the artist explores, the more he demands from his audience, he admits. Yet, Murali repudiates the perception of an artist as an isolated creature.
“Artists cannot distance themselves from everyone else. As someone who studies aesthetics, I believe I have a responsibility to speak about art, interpret it and take art closer to the man and woman on the street.”
Murali has exhibited in almost all the southern states. His one regret is of having passed over M. F. Husain’s invitation to display his watercolours in a show sponsored by the master painter. Circumstances then were to blame, he says.
A Fulbright scholar, Murali has travelled extensively across continents for lectures, treks and finding communion with Nature.
No art is complete, but part of a process says Murali — the process of finding one’s own idiom of expression.
( Space Within , Murali Sivramakrishnan’s 15th solo exhibition will be on till September 20 at the Kala Kendra, Bharat Nivas, Auroville.)