A plain white canvas can rarely appeal to anyone. Add some colours and it starts standing out. A combination of complementing colours, beautiful strokes, a little detail here and there and a lot of thought and effort can convert a plain white canvas into a master piece. While most of the times artists choose water colours, acrylic or oil painting as their medium, only a few artists choose paper. When we talk about paper, we seldom think of a painter using it, most of the times it’s used by crafters. Subramanian engages in the simple yet mesmerising and innovative art of collage using paper to create spellbinding arts on canvas. He blends the traditional acrylics with modern collage to recreate a variety of Indian mythological characters.
Subramanian was introduced to art at a very young age. He entered the world of colours, emotions, expressions and mythology in his hometown, a coastal village called Thandavankulam in Tamil Nadu, where his father was a stage artist. The colourful makeup, iconic costumes, decorative screens, and the historical plays captured Subramanian’s curiosity in the world of art and drama. Growing up, Subramanian observed the makeup artists enhance the beauty and expressions of the theatre artists just like a painter paints the world around him in myriad colours. He saw the regular farmers turn into various mythological characters after wearing elaborate costumes and adorning themselves with makeup. This is where he was first exposed to the graceful world of art.
Subramanian starts with drawing simple silhouettes. He then fills them with different hand torn colourful magazine photos and blends them with acrylic paint. What at first seems like a simple, child like sketch soon takes the form of a beautiful collage. It’s interesting to see a variety of magazine pictures fill in the mythological characters. The skyline of a foreign city becomes the skirt of a young girl, a colony of fish becomes Radha and Krishna’s embellishments or a piece of clock takes the place of the piece of sweet in Ganesha’s hand. The result always turns into happy faces of different mythological characters and young girls. With the stunning confluence of alluring hand torn paper and vibrant acrylics, Subramanian beautifully captures the calmness of Buddha, the notoriety of Krishna, the strength and dedication of Hanuman and the innocence of young girls in his collages.
Subramanian pursued a lucrative career in advertising after graduating at the top of his class in Kumbakonam. However, he continued to paint in his leisure time and participated in numerous competitions. Subramanian has been honoured with 12 national and international art awards including, Tamil Nadu State Lalit Kala Academy, All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, Saudia 6th Malwan GCC Countries Biennale Awards, Chitrakala Parishad Banglore. When asked, what really changed your perspective towards art, “The Saudia 3rd Malwan gold medal, along with an 18 days trip to Europe when I was working in Saudi Arabia. I visited different European countries such as Italy, France, England, etc. It was a great experience. Seeing various prominent museums and the art works of the celebrated artists, whom I had admired way back in college simply enticed me. This really inspired me to take painting as a full time profession.” Subramanian said getting nostalgic.
With a passion and an ardent desire to be a professional artist, Subramanian left his job in Saudi Arabia and moved back to India. Initially it was quite difficult for him to sustain as an artist, because most of the art galleries in Banglore collaborated with established artists. But as luck would have it, a year later to Subramanian’s professional art journey, Kynkyni Art Gallery was inaugurated. Subramanian hosted the first solo exhibition in this gallery and the show was sold out. “This experience encouraged me to move forward in the artistic field. Namrata Radhakrishnan from Kynkyni Art Gallery promotes my art, which is a big boost for my artistic career and it also helps me to concentrate completely on my work.”, replied Subramanian, when asked how did he feel after such a grand success.
When asked to describe the creation closest to his heart, he said, “I lost my daughter, Surya, to cancer when she was 9 years old. This inspired me to start ‘She series’, which is an art series based on and dedicated to young girls. This series is closest to my heart and my most favourite art series till date.”
‘Baladapi subhashitam grahiyam.’ this is a sanskrit subhashit, which translates to a person should be open to learn from everyone, even children. Subramanian brought it in action when he started teaching young kids how to draw and paint after he lost his daughter. Where he was supposed to be a teacher is where he learnt a lot from the simple and innocent arts of young girls. Describing the experience Subramanian said, “Earlier, my inclination towards the spiritual and mythological art made it very detailed and complex. Whereas, these young girls, taught me the simplicity in art. Since then, I started creating simple form, which does not consist of any intricate anatomy. It also helped me a lot in my collages.”
Subramanian beautifully fusions national and international art forms. He blends mythology with a foreign art form of collage and creates mesmerising pieces such as a flute playing Krishna, a divine Ganesha and the calm Bhramha. Using a mixed media presentation of acrylics and flamboyant magazine cuttings, Subramanian creates the enthralling art of collage. The reason why he chose this interesting mixture of Indian and international art form is that being an artist of international fame, he wanted to express his traditional Indian roots in an internationally acclaimed art form. Being familiar to the Indian traditions, art and culture, Subramanian found himself confident in creating and recreating various mythological characters and stories. “I can comfortably create a large variety of Ganesha collages, with Him in different forms and various colour schemes.”, said the collage artist from Banglore.
Apart from collage, simple line drawings and acrylics is also something that interests Subramanian. When asked about the future, he said that he also wants to try his hands in sculpture. Subramanian has established a trust in the memory of his daughter Surya, which awards and encourages young talent back in his home town Thandavankulam.