Born in Attingal, Kerala, Achutan Ramachandran Nair, left his hometown in 1950 when his family moved to
Trivandrum. In 1957 he took the train to Santiniketan leaving Kerala forever behind him. He was never to go
back there to live again except to return to it as a visitor. His native environment had provided him with a
richness that he always carried in mind and spirit, deriving more inspiration from his creative imagination
than perhaps he would have if he had continued to live in Kerala. Life in a village brought to him intimacy
with nature early, even while he absorbed temple culture, the performing arts and Malayalam literature. But
hungry to go beyond his horizons his mind churned and bubbled with new ideas and many questions. Thrust
forward by his energy an his enquiring mind, his environment naturally failed to provide a solution.
Ramachandran had often seen the reproductions of the Bengal School artists in the Modern Review, a
journal published by Ramananda Chatterjee. Later, while in Trivandrum, he saw a reproduction of Ram
Kinkar’s sculpture, Santhal Family, which impressed him greatly. Ram Kinkar lived in Santiniketan and had
been influenced by, while contributing to, its essence. Ramachandran wished to belong to such a reality,
meet a man like Ram Kinkar, and partake of an institution which had the capacity to have a nation-wide
influence. The powerful personality of Ram Kinkar made an instant impact on the young Ramachandran
who was hungry for the new and the untried.
Over the years an understanding of his own painterly philosophy has brought Ramachandran on a parallel
course with Nandalal Bose, sharing with him his views not only on tradition, academic realism and the role
of nature in art, but also the artistic tradition manifested in the mural paintings heritage, in the dignity of the
miniatures and in the fascination with Japanese and Chinese paintings. For all the time that Ramachandran
spent in observing, sketching, learning and kindling ideas in his mind which were to sprout later, like many
other students in Santineketan, he questioned himself: his worth and whether he was on the right course. In
1957, he met Chameli. “fresh and fragile, shaded under a white umbrella. Chameli however, is a true critic of
Ramachandran’s work, encouraging and restraining him. After many years of marriage today she continues
to do the same.
As a muralist, the paintings encircling the walls of the inner shine of the Krishnaswamy temple in Attingal
which he often walked past as a child always fascinated the young Ramachandran, this influenced his
emergence as a mural painter later in his life. In 1963, he painted Indian Village on seven panels stretching to
twenty feet, using gunny bag primed with plastic emulsion and created with encaustic. This painting was
irrevocably damaged a short while after it was displayed at AIFACS in Delhi the same year.
Ramachandran,then 28, was a struggling painter - a situation he shared
with most of his contemporaries. Oil paints and
canvases, if available, were expensive, for which reason
most painters tried other materials and techniques.
Wax was a great favorite. Linked with struggling
nature of a young painter trying to find his feet and
creative identity, was the empathy that Ramachandran
found with the masses and those exerting their bodies
and muscles to bring in a dignity to their lives. While
working on murals, Ramachandran realized that large
mural type paintings which have to be viewed from a
distance can acquire visual distortions if they have
planar irregularities. He gradually evolved a method of
using minimal, almost monochromatic oil paint which
served the dual function of helping him economize on
its usage and of achieving a relatively smooth surface.
Ramachandran can start with one canvas, discover that
he needs three and end with five. Their openendedness
remains, nonetheless, and with that the
capacity to go on. Neither mental composition nor the
actual structure can be constricted. While paintings
expand laterally in the true mural fashion, they can
climb upwards as well in the manner of the true mural
again. It was in the visual and thematic play of mobile
wide spaces that the art of the muralist was born.
Ramachandran graduated with a Degree in Malayalam Literature from Kerala University before going on to
study art at Viswa Bharati University at Santiniketan. His most recent shows include ‘Dhyanachitra’ and
‘Bahurupi’ New Delhi, in 2012 and 2009 respectively; London in 2008; Mumbai and New York, 2007-08;
New Delhi, 2006, 2005, and 2001; Nami Island, South Korea, 2005; New Delhi, 1998, 2002; He has
participated in numerous group exhibitions, in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, 2001; the Museum of Modern
Art, Oxford, 1982; the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1982; and the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1977.
Ramachandran lives and works in New Delhi and Kochi.
Excerpt from the book Ramachandran ‘The Art of the Muralist’ written by Rupika Chawla, published by Kala
Yatra & Sistas Publication in 1994