Strokes of devotion

Artist V.Ramesh says he endeavours to evoke the emotional responses to the poetry of saints with his paintings

Text is an integral partRamesh believes it adds to the work

Text is an integral partRamesh believes it adds to the work

When V. Ramesh encountered the works of the saint poets, over a period of time, the lines inspired him to paint.

“The first poet I read was Akka Mahadevi and the first poet whom I painted was Manikyavachakar, an eighth century Tamil poet known for his Tiruvachakam. I read the English translation and I was moved,” says Ramesh, whose series of recent paintings “Remembrances of Voices Past” is opening today at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA).

The painting showcases a human heart with the lines of Manikyavachakar’s poems running over the canvas.

“I have returned to his work and my latest series of small paintings is based on it.” It was then that he painted Karaikal Amma, thus preceding his series of paintings on women saints, which highlight his artistic journey.

Ramesh has painted some of India’s most influential saint poets, most of them women, Lal Ded (Kashmir), Karaikkal Amma (Tamil Nadu), Akka Mahadevi (Karnataka), Andal (Tamil Nadu) and Annamayya, (Andhra Pradesh).

“I was moved by their sense of devotion and their sense of search for the truth. I would like to search for the truth, which is not just about God. Their devotion includes all beings and connects all people together. This is what has moved me in their works and this is what I have painted” says Ramesh.

“Every written work is not just poetry, but a whole emotional landscape. That has been my endeavour, to see how I can evoke the same kind of emotional responses to my work.”

Ramesh works on a few different versions of paintings on one poet, treating each differently.

Text, in the lines of poetry that Ramesh paints is an important part of the work, and, he believes, adds to its strength.

“Some works take me more than a year to paint because I keep changing my mind about them. I begin painting on the canvas starting with the image or the text and if I am not happy, I just add on a new layer of paint and start with another image. It kind of builds up till I reach a stage where I say this it. That’s where everything falls into place for me. Sometimes it happens fast and sometimes it takes time.”

Ramesh’s works are distinctly spiritual, (not religious, he maintains) because he finds that is what moves him.

“There are a lot of artists who articulate different things. There are artists who talk about political issues, some talk about gender, some about sexuality or feminism. Devotion or bhakti is what moves me, I find it interesting and so I talk about it through my work.”

“Remembrances of Voices Past”, supported by Gallery Threshold, will be on view until March 30 at the National gallery of Modern Art, 49, Manikyavelu Mansion, Palace Road. For details, contact 22342338.




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