The Perceptive Eye, Surya Prakash Retrospective – 1960 onwards

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In this retrospective show titled “The Perceptive Eye, Surya Prakash Retrospective – 1960 onwards”, the artist claims for himself a place of seminal importance not only nationally, but in his region of Andhra Pradesh for shaping the modernity there along with two other icons Laxma Goud and Thota Vaikuntham. Simplicity of vision in art and towards life generally dominantly contours both his artistic expression and persona.

Retrospecting to his corpus evolved over more than five decades, there is a striking commonality that runs through his oeuvre. This was the subject matter that was derived from his environment. From his earliest days immediately after graduation, Surya Prakash painted subject as construction sites, streets, lamp posts or roof tops. In his visual language he was moving towards abstraction. Influenced by artists as Cezanne, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta and Akbar Padamse, his attraction to their art was their inherent abstract vision. His sensibility therefore essentialized the forms that he perceived and juxtaposed with his technique and intuitive engagement with colours and their tonal values, Surya Prakash created works that were those of a quintessential abstractionist.

In his art, he avoided the human presence, resulting in works that have an ambience of contemplative silence. The reason was that Surya Praksh was not interested in conveying a story or narrative content. His inspiration and artistic fodder was derived from his perception of the world around, observing sharply and insightfully while subconsciously internalizing it. When he encountered his canvas these empirical experiences were recreated through the agency of his fecund imagination guided by forms emerging from his subconscious, giving his works an aura of distinctness. His exploration and experiences were his swelling well of inspiration witnessed in the varied series that he created over five decades.

The number of series that he developed in his artistic journey was marked by his stylistic designated signature. The meticulousness and careful attention to details which is at the heart of his works defined also the contours of his persona. Gentle, soft spoken and with measured words, he does not claim to be a great intellectual or an extraordinary genius. But in the spaces between his silences articulating his thoughts into words; he can be read as a philosopher, who has experienced the world and finds visualization in the pouring forth of his forms on the canvases or paper. His journey through varied themes as Urban Detritus, Surreal Abstractions, Reflections, Levitating Forms in Landscapes, Defining Floral Aesthetics, Bouquets to nature, Prose and Poetry-the Venice Interlude to enriching chromatic representations of mountains and woods in the Spring season in USA have distinct unity of ideas.

The Urban Detritus Series was an important genre of automobile junk that Surya Prakash painted from mid 1960s onwards, in which he used the subject as a creative trope making the inorganic into organic by ingeniously anthropomorphizing the automobile forms to convey human character and giving it life. This was further enriched with his vibrant tonalities of colour and an inherent emissive light that was evocative as it was ethereal.

Surreal Abstraction was an extension of Urban Detritus, the compositions were interfaced with self resulting in forms that were organic offering qualities of life and movement. In a process of reversal, in this series the inorganic automobile forms transcend to become organic with a sense of living dynamism.

The Levitational Forms over Landscapes established the continuity of the premise of the duality of inorganic-organic that began with his automobiles. The process here was reversed taking the organic as the reference point and transforming it into inorganic as he played and manipulated the leaf. The leaf was invested with life, but when it dried it died and became inorganic creating a mobile trajectory for itself. Painted in chromatic tones, these dried leaves in varying stages of its metamorphoses hovered against the silky soft blue sky or over an arid landscape sans human activity. The creative ingenuity reflected in this series established him as a versatile craftsman carving forms that were distinctly different.

Reflection series offered mental landscapes of abstraction developed by Surya Prakash, in which he intentionally avoided representational forms that would connect to his environment. Brilliant colours and ascetic sophisticated monochromes characterize the series. The aesthetics of depthless depth becomes obvious with illusionary white dashes of lines that offered rippling visual play.

Defining Floral Aesthetics privileged circular, rhomboid and rectangular formats. The circular form had a reference to the circular pool of pond that Surya Prakash had created in his garden and filled it with lotus pods that blossomed and overflowed the rim. The inspiration serving as a point of departure led him to create organic ethereal surreal world of flora in which the forms were derived from deep within his subconscious, assuming shapes that had no connection to the living environment. The abstraction of forms with its essential reductivity, enhanced by the charming and poetic juxtaposition of colours and subtle tints and shades, makes it an elegy.

Bouquet to Nature marked another milestone in his artistic career, when he changed gears to adopt a different theme, technique and medium. Nature became a source of reference, inspiring him with creative ideas in recreating it through his intuitively evolved compositions, while the technique changed premised on the element of chance with drops of paint while the medium became acrylics moving away from oils. The latter medium was most engaging for the artist for almost four decades, but with demands of artistic ideas, he ventured to bring acrylics into his experiences. The landscapes kaleidoscopic in colours and with strange viewpoints were slices of his memories of experiences arbitrarily put together to suit his mental imageries. The forms from nature, the choice of colours and strange perspectives will give the viewer a different feel about the concept of landscape painting within the contemporary milieu.

Prose And Poetry: The Venice Interlude, marks a different approach in his oeuvre. This Italian city had first captured his imagination when as a student at the College of Fine Arts and Architecture he saw a work based on Venice painted by his revered teacher Vidya Bhushan whom he had admired greatly and who had gifted him a small painting of the Venice. Thus the idea of extending the genre of landscape to a more specific locale as Venice was the result of this encounter he had. The floating city with its capricious and transient playing on its shifting waters offered a challenge in capturing these ephemeral moments. As with his landscapes, in this series too he has selected those sections of the city namely the water alleys, brick and stone walls, the bridges and above all the boats resting in the water with their shadows all fascinated him to create works that recreated the aura and character of the city.
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His perceptive eye in his compositional development neither created a spectacle nor an emotional drama; rather he offered a charming and an evocative poetry to life itself whether tethered to reality or becoming a flaneur in imagination. His methodology of painting was premised on play of chance and a dominant subconscious that guided his brush on the canvas. His works display an inherent duality as organic-inorganic, realism-abstraction, dream-reality, prose-poetry, light and shadow lending his works qualities that were both mysterious and magical. The lyrical elegant flow of lines, brilliant engagement with hues and tones, the brush work creating titillating visual textures and a space that is superreal, gives a saliency and character to his works that surprisingly avoided monotony and offered interesting variety.

The retrospective will have on display his drawings, prints, and canvases in oils and acrylics.

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