Life in the Deep: K. Ramanujam and Kaushik Chakravartty

03 Sep – 09 Nov 2016

Life in the Deep

The two artists paired in this exhibition, K. Ramanujam and Kaushik Chakravartty, have much in common, as even a brief glance at their biographies shows. They were near-contemporaries: Ramanujam was born in 1940 in Madras (now Chennai) and Kaushik in 1946 in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Both artists attended, in their formative years, prestigious schools of arts and crafts in their respective cities. Each had to live with, contend with, a disability—Kaushik was hard of hearing and Ramanujam suffered from schizophrenia and depression; as a result of this, each artist worked in relative isolation. And both of them died at a tragically young age. Ramanujam took his own life in 1973 and Kaushik died in a car crash in Tanzania in 1975—ages 33 and 29. 

There are biographical resonances and then there are artistic ones. Life in the Deep juxtaposes two figures who broke new ground through their colourful and often fantastical paintings. Differences in scale and method disguise several common factors that unite their work—an interest in colour, fantasy and the animal world. Both artists seek, also, to erase a sense of deep space in their paintings by arranging all elements of the composition as foreground and into immediate view. And, from a historical perspective, neither of them is easy to assimilate into a ‘school’. National or cultural concerns that distinguished the work of many of their peers from this period—the 1960s and early 1970s—played little part in their approach to art making. Their perspectives did not emerge through a formal movement or a place. Instead, their work is driven by fable, fantasy and, in the case of Ramanujam, a very personal iconography. If all art is, to some degree, a form of catharsis, and a revelation or outpouring of an inner emotional reservoir, this is doubly true of Kaushik and Ramanujam.

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