இந்தப் பக்கத்தை தமிழில் வாசிக்க: கே. ராமானுஜம்
K. Ramanujam (1940 – June 3, 1973), one of the modern painters of Tamil Nadu, created an extraordinary body of work consisting of strange and dreamlike paintings, that set him apart from other artists. He let his genius shine through the unique dreamscape he created, despite his short life, misanthropic nature, stutter and mental disability.
K. Ramanujam never married.
K. Ramanujam grew up with a passion for art and showed no interest in academic education. He dropped out of school and was sent to learn painting from Dhanapal. He then joined the Madras School of Art in 1958 and completed a 6-year diploma course in 1964. When Ramanujam's father died unexpectedly while he was studying at the painting school, Ramanujam faced a financial crisis. He lived by selling his paintings for a rupee or two to students who wanted them. After completing his degree, K. Ramanujam was awarded a three-year national scholarship of 250 rupees per month, which supported him financially. From 1958-1967, he was continuously painting from within the campus of the Art school for 9 years. Later he settled in the Cholamandalam Artists Village.
K. Ramanujam was known to have been eccentric and impulsive by nature. He had a passion for art and was indifferent to worldly life. K.C.S. Panikar took care of him. K. Ramanujam's friend N. Raghavan recalls an incident,
"Ramanujam used to leave drops of water on the qunk ink painting to add finishing touches. That was his style. When a painting for the National Art Museum was nearing completion, a fellow artist poured water on the painting and said, 'You are going to sprinkle water on it anyway. So I did it myself,' he said.
"Ramanuja couldn't bear this act. He chased the painter around Cholamandalam in a frenzy. The next morning, he had to send a finished painting for the competition of the National Art Gallery. So that very night, Ramanuja painted another painting and sent it. It was chosen as the best painting of the year. It is still in the gallery on display today.”
Artistic life and some works
While he was in College, K. Ramanujam's painting 'Kanavu (dream) was featured in the then popular quarterly magazine 'Artrends' (October 1963 January 1964) and gained widespread attention. The fact that a student's work appeared only once in that journal is an estimate of Ramanuja's early skills.
While in college, he also began eating meat and using drugs. His orthodox family could not tolerate this and after some troubles at home Ramanujam stopped going home. He stayed at the college and later at Cholamandalam. Ramanuja's mannerisms, appearance and actions were a source of ridicule even among his friends. Art School Principal K.C.S. Panikar, teachers Dhanapal, Krishnarao, Santhanaraj, fellow students K.M. Adimoolam and P. Krishnamurthy were a great support to Ramanuja. Many of Ramanujan's works have been titled by Panikar. K. Ramanujam explained about his art pieces in Tamil to Panikar, who would then give suitable titles in English.
Amazed by Ramanujath's work, art critic at the British Art Council George Butcher arranged for his work to be exhibited at the Commonwealth Art Festival.
In 1970, Ramanujam painted three murals at the Connemara Hotel when it was being renovated by renowned architect Geoffry Bawa.
In his later years, Ramanujam wanted to completely break away from his usual style of dreamlike paintings and find a new genre of art.
Ramanujam committed suicide on June 3, 1973 at the age of 33.
Artistic Significance, Aesthetics
Ramanujam had no understanding of the Madras Art Movement led by Panikkar or the art trends of that period. Ramanujam's mental disorder kept him away from this world. However, he created a dream vision for himself and expressed it through his art in a unique manner.
Most of Ramanujam's paintings are done with ink, pen and oil paint. Ramanujam used the technique of soaking the paper in water before painting and then starting to paint with a slight dampness as it begins to dry or after painting, the paper is lightly soaked in water and dried. This gave his paintings a dreamy quality. Ramanujam may have acquired this technique from his Art school environment. Heavenly palaces, Garuda-like birds, angels, elephants, snakes, strange animals with wings, and clocks were recurring motifs in Ramanujam's works. He tried to look like an serious man in real life with a beard, curly moustache, hat and shirt and he portrayed himself as such in his paintings.
Ramanujam's desire to marry a woman is echoed in many ways in his paintings. In one of them he is seen traveling with an angel sitting on top of a strange monstrous figure, in another he is with his beloved in a great heavenly mansion surrounded by angels, and in another he is lying on a bed while his wife is seated next to him in the mouth of a giant serpent. Ramanujam had a habit of reading anything available in Tamil like Puranas, Epics, Chandamama stories, about Tamil cinema and Astrology. Art critics have pointed out that Ramanujam's Vaishnava background is reflected in his mystical works. Commenting on Ramanujam's works, art historian Chitra Madhavan says, "his Vaishnava background can be seen in his paintings. Cobra, the ocean and his heaven, etc. The woman in his paintings reminds us of Sridevi and Buddevi, the many-headed Cobra references Ananthasayanam, and Ramanujam seated on the strange bird reminds us of Lord Vishnu on the Garuda".
There are artists who have been influenced by his artwork. About Ramanujam, painter C. Douglas says, "Not many people know that he was a great teacher. I learnt a lot from him. I learned from him that lines speak and breathe. I tried to adopt his techniques in the way I approached the art scape and in creating my own art. For me, he was someone I looked up to. I followed him."
The Cholamandalam Art Village was formed as a result of Panikar's idea that artists like Ramanujam, who had no means could have an institution to set up a space for themselves and engage in art.
"When he was alive, no one knew Ramanujam's worth. It is unfortunate that we lacked the clarity and maturity back then. Had he been alive today, he would have become a renowned artist all across the world. It is the misfortune of the world of art that we ignored literary genius like Bharati and a genius in the fine arts like K. Ramanujam. Accurate account of his life and his work should be written. We should set up museums for brilliant artists like him as they do in the West. That will be our show of respect for their genius" said Ramanujam's friend and artist N. Raghavan.
Ramanujam participated in the Commonwealth Art Festival in 1965. He also participated in group exhibitions in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi.
'Ashvita art gallery' exhibited the works of famous Indian artists on their 10th anniversary. It featured two works of Ramanujam. In December 2019, Ramanujam's works from several art galleries in India were exhibited at the Ashvita Art Gallery.
Collections of Ramanujam's works are at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Lalit Kala Academy in Chennai and the Semault Art Gallery in Mumbai. The Kiran Nadar Museum in Delhi has a separate section dedicated to Ramanujam's works and is on permanent display.
Based on Ramanuja's life, writer C. Mohan has written a novel titled Vindhai Kalaignanin Uruva Chithiram (Portrait of a strange Artist).