This side of the Forrest
A solo exhibition of Vasudevan Akkitham
was on view from the 5th to the 19th December 2014
as part of
SITE art space & The Collective Studio Baroda Collaboration
A poet father, whose words wrapped a young boy in their magic, made for a place of belonging never to be forgotten, even when journeys away from this heartland took the boy far away. In the preamble of getting to know himself as a young artist he found a vast fortune in the treasures of art history. He conversed with himself through the conduit of time that was framed on walls in the corridors of these legacies.
This Side of the Forest frames the preoccupations of Vasudevan Akkitham’s concept of home being central to his work. He refers to this territory as being a migrant’s dream, yet imaginary and elusive, and in no way corresponding to the actual place he comes from. For him it becomes a life source of sustenance, something he falls back on as the touchstone of reaffirmation of his own existence. It is a subconscious space of attachment that nurtures his spirit, and where the act of painting can unlock deeper terrains where the most meaningful communication is possible in the communion with himself.
The artist’s incessant engagement with drawing as a private space of discourse formulates a major component of his art practice. These notational ideas are instantly caught and held like the quickened pulse of desire, to be momentarily stilled in the pages of his sketchbooks. Unnoticed by others and carried casually without ceremony like a portable world of fantasy, he escapes even in the midst of the humdrumness of everyday teaching in the classroom, to this persistent call of his own moorings. In his studio these miniature-formats then bloom into larger more ordered and designed representations of his personal philosophies, where he paints and draws from the folklores of his childhood and the urban narratives of his adult dwelling, shut away from the pressures of the outside world; and where time conforms to his dictates alone.
The making of a work can often be a protracted affair with Vasudevan, where the image surface maybe reworked exhaustively; sometimes even over many years. His acrylic paintings, layered like overwritten manuscripts, have the final images finding their completion through his painstaking negotiations with the act of finality. This process, unlike the sketchbook drawings, alludes to an infinity that suggests a never-ending span of time in which the artist is unhurried about the final outcome, and where the act of creating becomes the mission in itself. On the other hand the large paper works which are inscribed with imagery that are mutations from the plethora of myths and legends that populate his mental landscape, are fleshed from agitated gestural marks; and the watercolours with their beguiling tranquillity underplay the hidden violence that they contain. Working almost everyday, he has amassed a huge body of work that traces his linguistic journey from his early influences derived from the Trivandrum school of art and his engagement with the figurative narrative movement when he came to study at the faculty of Fine arts in Baroda; and then later his exposure to the New Spirit of Figuration prevalent in London, when he was at the Royal College of art in the late 80’s.
This artist’s studio is a treasure trove, where his work is piled high and deep against the walls. As you look around this intimate space you are encased with an energy that speaks of personal myths; and like reinvented Jataka tales his drawings and paintings open up his world for rediscovery, afresh. The ultimate Sutradhaar, Vasudevan provides you a world of fascination within which to explore and find yourself. The poet’s son now conjures his own magical world of imagery that takes you to his heartland of belonging.