Born to late Vakkom K.Lakshmanan and K.Krishnamma in Vakkom in 1969, JohnyML started writing poetry at an early age and got his first poem published when he was thirteen. His father being one of the founder members of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) in Kerala, JohnyML developed an interest in politics and started following his father’s footsteps in village reformation. Reading collected writings by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in his teens left a deep impression in him and guided by his mother he started reading poetry and literature avidly. Artist Shibu Natesan who is his first cousin, initiated him into art history.
JohnyML finished his school education in Government High School, Vakkom. He took science stream for his Pre-Degree and spent two years in the Sree Narayana College, Sivagiri, Varkala. During those years he spent a lot of time in Sivagiri, the death shrine of Sree Narayana Guru and studied his works deeply. In 1987, he joined the University College, Thiruvananthapuram and completed his BA and MA in English Language and Literature in 1992. In 1993, he joined the Fine Arts Faculty, MS University, Baroda and took MFA in Art History and Criticism in 1995. In 2003, with the support of the Charles Wallace India Trust he took MA in Creative Curating from the Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK. Though he enrolled for a PhD in the IIT Hyderabad, he decided to discontinue it after a year.
After working as a Junior Lecturer in a higher secondary school in Kerala, JohnyML opted to become an art historian and writer. He started off as an art critic in 1995 with Hindustan Times and Indian Express. He went on contributing art columns in all the New Delhi based dailies. His column in the Hindu Business Line in late 1990s consolidated his position as an art critic in Delhi. He has been having his short and prolonged stints as a political journalist since 1997. He became a senior correspondent with the Malayalam Vaarika and in Tehelka.com. He was with Malayala Manoram for a year in 2005.
JohnyML is the founder editor of India’s first online art magazine, mattersofart.com. He also founded and edited one of the most popular online art journals, artconcerns.com (now defunct). He has been an editor of the Art and Deal magazine also has guest edited Art Etc. He contributes to Art India Magazine, Creative Minds, Art Journal and many other exclusive art magazines. Currently he writes in www.stanacemagazine.in and naradanews.com.
As a Blogger
Starting a blog in 2008 was a turning point in JohnyML’s career. As an avid reader and writer, JohnyML started making independent blog entries on art, culture, cinema and life. He named it after the famous statement of Malcolm X, ‘By All Mean Necessary’. This popular blog is largely followed by the art and cultural communities from all over the world. JohnyML is quoted widely in the news reports abroad based on his blog entries. His autobiography ‘To My Children’ is a series of thirty blog entries done between 2010 and 2012.
JohnyML is one of the pioneering curators in India who worked towards bringing respect to curatorial practice, which in India is largely dominated by self-designated people with no academic or practical qualifications. He has curated path breaking shows like ‘Small but Significant’ (2000), ‘Dreams: Projects Unrealised’ (2003), ‘Twilight Zone of the Great Indian Digital Divide’ (2004), ‘Compensation for What has been Lost’ (2006), ‘Video Wednesdays @ Gallery Espace’ (2008-2009), ‘Lensing-it’ (2011), ‘Thekkan Kaattu’ (47th Annual Exhibition of the Birla Academy, Kolkata), ‘LoC- Line of Control’ (49th Annual Exhibition of the Birla Academy, Kolkata) and currently working on the Golden Jubilee Exhibitions of the Birla Academy, Kolkata. The other important exhibitions include ‘Cartist Project’ Jaipur, ‘Goa Reloaded’, ‘R.A.P.E –Rare Acts of Political Engagement.’
In 2009 he conceptualized and curated one of the largest murals projects in India. Titled ‘Vibrant Gujarat,’ it was done in a factory interior in Baroda by a team of artists. In the same year he undertook a 3000 kilometer journey across India to research on how art and art history are taught in small town art colleges. JohnyML’s writings on this journey is available on artroutes.in and in his blog.
JohnyML was the Project Director of the United Art Fair (2012) and Pune Biennale (2015)
JohnyML has authored eight independent books so far and has contributed to various volumes. K.S.Radhakrishan (a monograph co-authored with R.Sivakumar), By All Means Necessary (a collection of essays from his blog published by the Kerala Lalitha Kala Academy), The Circle of Life –the Art of Siddharth (Prakriti, Chennai), B.D.Dethan and his Distinct Style (Suryakanthi, Thiruvananthapuram), Straight from Life –animal and bird imageries in Ram Kinkar Baij (Musui Foundation, New Delhi), In the Open (Ojas, New Delhi), Timeless Bronze (Uttarayan, Baroda), Biography of Arvind Kejriwal-India Janadhipathyathileykku (Malayalam published by DC Books), A Pilgrim with a Camera on the Ramp (on the works of Prabuddha Dasgupta published by Ganjam, Bangalore)
JohnyML is a well known translator who has translated thirteen books so far. He translates international literature into Malayalam.
‘Mistress’ by Anita Nair, ‘Eleven Minutes’ by Paulo Coelho, ‘Embers’ by Sandor Marai, ‘Distant Star’ by Roberto Bolano, ‘I Married a Communist by Philip Roth, ‘Famished Road’ by Ben Okri, ‘Black Book’ by Orhan Pamuk, ‘New Life’ by Orhan Pamuk, ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown, ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley, ‘Lost Symbol’ by Dan Brown, ‘Strangeness in my Mind’ by Orhan Pamuk, ‘Astonishing the Gods’ by Ben Okri (all for DC Books, Kerala) and ‘Ramkinkar and His Works’ by K.G.Subramanyan (Musui Foundation, New Delhi),
JohnyML has travelled in seven countries. He travels all over India to attend seminars and also to teach short terms courses in the universities. He has taught in the National Institute of Design and many other fine arts faculties. He has also directed three documentaries on artists: On Jeram Patel, On N.N.Rimzon and on Sanjeev Sinha. He worked as a campaigner for the Aam Aadmi Party in his village for six months in 2015. However, he does not want to be identified as a hardcore political activist and prefers to be known as a politico-cultural critic. He lives and works from Delhi.