Kalapathy Ganapathy Subramanyan (1924-2016)

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Kalapathy Ganapathy Subramanyan, fondly referred to as ‘Mani-da’, was a student at the Presidency College. He grew up under the influence of the Indian nationalist movement that was sweeping through much of British India. A Gandhian at heart, he participated in the Quit India Movement. Having learnt that Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan was a destination of sorts for nationalists and artistes alike, Subrahmanyan began his artistic journey at the Visvabharati’s Kala Bhavan, where he had had the distinct privilege of training under stalwarts like Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij and Benode Behari Mukherjee.

Subramanyan tended to view art integrally and did not restrict him self to any particular artistic tradition. He worked on children’s illustrations, toy-making, wood-cut printing, terracotta reliefs and glass painting; he also developed a deep understanding of the mural traditions in India while apprenticing under Benode Behari Mukherjee.

Subramanyan’s approach, similar to his contemporaries, was influenced by European modernism; but his art practice which was very individualistic and progressive, based on his deep understanding of folk and rustic cultures in India. His style encompassed the formal contours of modernism, Santinikentan’s narrative tradition and the visual skill of Indian folk traditions. He engaged with complex images that were steeped in myth and narrative and improvised through various levels including technique, practice and skill. His search for pure meaning was evident in his work; in this effort, nothing was excluded — contrasting elements of life, including conflict and serenity, love and disdain, truth and denial, had their place in the scheme of this thought. In this was included irony, a certain sense of revisionism and a freedom from defined genres. In his own words, he says: “My work, so to say, deconstructs an old concept and sees its similarities with others.”

Subramanyan was also an accomplished writer and would often elaborate on his creative themes through his essays and stories. This quality of Manida being a storyteller was infused in his work very significantly.

His legacy was unparalleled both as an artist and teacher that served to inspire an entire generation of Indian artists after him.

K. G. Subrahmanyan’s passing away has created a vacuum in Indian art – not just of an extraordinary artist, but of a writer, teacher and philosopher. His contribution stands in many shades and isn’t likely to fade in our memory klicka här nu.

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