HomeLifestyleChennai icon RB Bhaskaran completes 60 years of influencing Madras art movement

Chennai icon RB Bhaskaran completes 60 years of influencing Madras art movement

Artist RB Bhaskaran recounts 60 years of being an artist, teacher and mentor, releasing his biography during an art show at the Dot School of Design.

Artist RB Bhaskaran recounts 60 years of being an artist, teacher and mentor, releasing his biography during an art show at the Dot School of Design.

I arrive 20 minutes early for my interview with art icon RB Bhaskaran. However, the 80-year-old cast is 30 minutes early. “Ah,” he says, standing with a smile, “just in time.”

An influential teacher, former principal of the prestigious Government College of Fine Arts, former principal of College of Art, Kumbakonam and former president of Lalit Kala Akademi Delhi, Bhaskaran spent the last six decades bringing academic rigor and creative technique to Madras. Art Campaign. Still an active patron of the Indian art fraternity, he continues to stress the importance of discipline, structure and constant reinforcement on canvas and in life.

Which may explain why his biography was released, Navigating Culture Through Formal Aesthetics – s IX Decades of RB Bhaskaran’s Journey Ashrafi S Bhagat, at the DOT School of Design at the Ambattur Industrial Estate, instead of a popular City Gallery, which would have been a more traditional option. To accompany the launch, paintings by around 60 artists from his personal collection paint the walls of the college’s gallery.

Kathiawar Couple - Mixed Media on Canvas (2014)

Kathiawar Couple – Mixed Media on Canvas (2014) | photo credit: special arrangement

“I’m in a circle,” he says, “I want to give back now.” Students rejoice: As he moves through his studio space, they ask for advice and selfies. In the school gallery, he weaves between them as they study his work, stopping at one of his signature dull cats paintings, done in his trademark quick, elegant lines, a saturated chrome yellow. set against the background of.

Given his discipline, you wouldn’t expect Bhaskaran to be subversive – but his portraits are rebellious, joyful with unexpected techniques and sharp humour. “Painting is a grammar. People say that with modern art you can write – you can’t. If you want your canvas to flow with energy, to be alive, you have to have grammar,” he says. are, “You must have technology. It’s an integral part of creative expression today… Then, you need to experiment. I enjoy experimenting.”

This zeal to learn the rules and then bend to them alienated Bhaskaran even as a student. As a child, he used to help banner artists at his uncle, artist Namasivayam Pillai’s India studio. Between art college he learned murals in Rajasthan, and won a UNESCO scholarship in Inhod, Israel, where he learned printmaking. He did workshops on printmaking in the UK. Over the years he learned intaglio, lithography, ceramics, linocut, etching, screen printing and much more.

Cats - Mixed Media on Paper (1990)

Cats – Mixed Media on Paper (1990) | photo credit: special arrangement

Therefore, his canvases constantly evolved. “You need broad exposure. Even in art today, students have to be multi-skilled to be able to become product designers or illustrators. Change must be constant.” He admits that he is constantly restless: “I am not satisfied with what I do. I have to go from one technique to another.”

In fact, he shrinks from the idea of ​​art being cathartic. “No. When I face the canvas I am completely disconnected from the outside world. My process is different. Politically, socially, culturally, things can happen — but I don’t bring them to my canvas.” They have also developed conservatism with age. “I lost my brother to the pandemic. Over the years I have lost so many friends… but I realize, it’s all a part of life… Emotion is between me and my canvas. I will not leave the canvas or the sheet of paper until I am satisfied that the fight is over,” he says.

Although he speaks of his art as a struggle, it is clear that he enjoys its challenges, deftly wielding a variety of materials, techniques, and ideas. “In the sixties, we had to buy fabric from Broadway and prepare it from paste for canvas. Today you can do anything because there’s so much available.” For example, his painting named Kingfisher began as charcoal on canvas. “I put fixtures on top, and then painted with acrylics.” That one Points to the landscape, “There I used an oil bar.”

Kathiawar Couple - Oil on Canvas (2010)

Kathiawar Couple – Oil on Canvas (2010) | photo credit: special arrangement

He confesses that he can’t stop buying art materials. “I love to play on the big canvas. I mix mediums. I’m buying pastels, crayons, watercolors and oils…” However, he continues to work on only one painting at a time. “Unfinished work stays in the studio and sometimes bothers me. 3 am , My imagination will catch fire, and I will figure out how to make it happen. ”

Working from his studio at home, he is excited to indulge in the luxury of painting for himself without considering any gallery deadlines. “I’m in no rush. No one is waiting for me. I’m waiting…” He smiles, pauses and continues, “I’m waiting because my time is up. This The fight has been going on for 60 years. Now I am at the end of my life, but my work is not done. There are still canvases waiting for a dialogue with me. ”

The show is running till September 18, 2022 at Dot Gallery, Dot School of Design, Ambattur Industrial Estate.

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