KG Subramanyan, who died in Baroda on 29th June 2016 at the age of 92, was one of India’s most senior artists, working with diverse media and materials, and exhibiting extensively both within and outside the country.
Painter, sculptor, muralist, K G Subramanyan was born in a village in north Kerala in 1924. While studying economics at Presidency College, Madras, Subramanyan became involved in the freedom struggle. He was imprisoned and debarred from government colleges. The turning point of his life came when he joined Kala Bhavan at Visva Bharati in Santiniketan in 1944. He studied at Kala Bhavan till 1948. Between 1951 and 1959, Subramanyan was a lecturer in painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda. During 1955 and 1956, he wen to the Slade School of Art in London to study as a British Council research scholar.
A writer, scholar, teacher and art historian, K G Subramanyan was prolific in his art, spanning the spectrum of mediums from painting to pottery, weaving, and glass painting. He believed in the value of Indian traditions and incorporated folklore, myth and local techniques and stories into his work. His works have always sought to move between the real and the imaginary. His main interest was once in the passage of the objective to the abstract. Abstract to mean here an image of relative anonymity, which allowed it a variety of interpretations and gave it the ability to play various visual roles. The images are more than visual. They have a complex identity, diverse cultural associations and background lore. K G Subramanyan demolished banners between artist and artisan. He experimented with weaving and toy-making. He also reinvested several mediums earlier used in Indian art.
He has received the Kalidas Samman in 198 1, the Padma Shree in 1975, a D. Litt. (Honoris Causa) from the Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta in 1992 and became a Fellow of Kerala Lalit Kala Akademi in 1993. He has also written some books namely, Moving Focus: Essays on Indian Art ,The Living Tradition, The Creative Circuit, Translation of Benodebehari Mukherjee’s Chitrakar, The Magic of Making: Essays on Art and Culture.