Monday, July 7, 2014

Three Drawings of Usha Ramachandran

(Usha Ramachandran)

Somehow these drawings attract me. They are not too far away from the tradition of creative illustrations that one has been seeing for quite a long time in Kerala. But Usha Ramachandran is not prolific when it comes to drawing; she is prolific in her sculptural output though. The drawings that she has recently posted in her facebook page are striking for their simplicity. I maybe wrong here because simplicity is the hallmark of all drawings. If drawings are complex either they end up as conscious efforts in creating that effect or just doodling. Yet, I feel that there is something that makes these drawings distinct and it is ‘love’. It is not the kind of love that develops between two people, tinged with, at times at bit of carnal desire. Nor is it the pure and ideal romantic love, which in psychologists’ parlance known as agape love. Nor is the kind of love that one professes for the humanity or for the whole universe and the animate and inanimate inhabits there. It is that kind of love that manifests in people who have lived a fruitful love and removed all kind of competitive egos from one’s own self. That love comes with age; if not with age, with wisdom.

One can argue about the age limit for having enough amount of wisdom and that argument could be endless. I do not want to enter into that kind of futile exercise. Prolific painters are masters of drawing too. Take Picasso or Ram Kinkar Baij, Nandalal Bose or Binode Behari Mukherjee, K.G.Subramnyan or Shibu Natesan, their drawings are simple, pure and full of love for the subject that they choose to draw. Their drawings are a delight to watch. But they did their drawings even when they were young and full of life. However, it is not wrong to argue that as an artist advances in age, things get simpler and pure. If it does not happen, then we have all the reasons to think that they have not aged enough. Or maybe, drawing is a way to capture life in most effortless strokes. I think, drawings become more alive when the artist starts to see things around him or her in simpler ways. Why more lines when a single line could capture the complexity of life? Why more colours when a single patch could embody the whole volume?

In Usha Ramachandran’s case, I think, from circumstantial evidences, that of late she has been thinking more about the advancing of her age. The more she is conscious of her age, the more she becomes reconciled to the world. The complexities of the world are shed one by one and she feels that life could be captured in simple lines. And these simple lines originate from simple love. Look at her themes; a young mother bathing her infant child. An old sleeping dog curled up to himself. An old Muslim tailor does some hand stitching on a piece of cloth. In the age of plastic revolution, no young mother uses her thighs as a bathing cradle/tub for an infant. It had been a practice amongst rural women. They put oil and turmeric on the child’s body, keep a trough of lukewarm water nearby, roll up their mundu (dhoti) till the thighs, lay the child on them, pour a palm full of water first on the stomach and chest of the child, see it giggle, call out to the birds, cats, dogs and other kids to come and witness this bathing performance. This simple spectacle of life has gone with plastic ducks quack around in tiny tubs kept on the marble tiled bathrooms. Usha Ramachandran recalls those good old days. It is simple nostalgia of a time. It is not necessary that she thinks about her own childhood or her own motherhood. It is the memories of such love; drawing the possibility of touch and communication with lukewarm water.

In a small note, Usha Ramachandran writes that her dog has grown old and it spends most of the time sleeping. Curled up to itself, the dog is created out of a single line. I do not call it a phenomenal drawing. But there is something that holds the viewer’s attention. Maybe it is my sensitive state of mind. I see the black nose of the dog and its laziness. Is it an extended imagery, a projection? One could say so. But I would say, it is the artist’s turning from the macro world to micro world. Usha Ramachandran’s sculptures have always captured the events of a smaller world, where wind gets caught into an open umbrella, a woman walk fast under rain holding a leaf as umbrella, a postman rushing with a postal bag, a girl on the swing, a bird and so on. In this drawing, however, she focuses further on smaller events of life; an old dog sleeping. If someone is intently watching a dog sleeping, then that person cannot cherish or nourish an iota of hatred within. She watches the slow pace of its breathing and draws a picture. I always wonder, especially when I see dogs sleeping, what do they dream of?

The third and final drawing that I would like to consider is the old Muslim man sewing a cloth. The expression is curious and could be seen only by children (children who could talk to dogs and cats) and Usha Ramachandran assumes the state of a child. His right hand goes up in the air with a needle in his hand. His left hand holds the cloth. And in the drawing, only coloured area is that of the fabric. This skilful use of colour adds to the dynamics of the drawing. Again, Usha Ramachandran draws it with a lot of love, which is recalled from the storage of memories for such wandering Muslim tailors are no longer seen in the social landscape of our times. These drawings make sense to me and I enjoy looking at them, for the love that has gone into its making and for the sheer pleasure of seeing something so simple and unpretentious. 


usha said...

Thank you Johny :)!This was good to read and did me a lot of good :).
As you say small things of our life attract me.My feelings were exactly what you wrote about 'the mother bathing her baby'.I was not thinking about any particular baby...though this was how my children were bathed.I was really thinking that today's children will wonder "what is this woman doing to the child?" .........(some time back a girl who has finished her MBBS asked me 'what is that?'pointing at an old kerosene oil table lamp at my house.She had never seen it though she is from TVM.My children used to study in the light of that lamp when they were at school and we used to have regular power cuts then just as now.Most of us have 'inverters' or the 'emergency' lamp now.
The friendly 'Darji' is from my younger days in Delhi.Sitting on the floor and sewing away. Thinking drawing a 'halwaee'I used to rut to when ever I got 2 or 3 annas.:)

Susan Oleksiw said...

I enjoyed reading this very thoughtful and careful examination of these drawings. I looked long at the drawing of the mother bathing her child, and it made sense to me, perhaps because of my age, but I can see how younger people might wonder what was going on. The tailor shows both grace and energy in his work. People have asked me why I take photos in India of all the old ways of doing things, but I find these images more likely to connect people with life, with understanding life and how it moves.

JohnyML said...

Thanks Usha ji and thanks Susan ji...