A writer, scholar, teacher and art historian, K G Subramanyan was also prolific in his art, employing a range of mediums and styles. His belief in the revival of Indian traditions led him to create a new artistic idiom, and his practice incorporated drawing, oil painting, watercolour, murals and sculpture alongside toy making, set design, glass painting, pottery and weaving. His dedication to his art transformed Indian modernism and made it more diverse.
From the 1980s onwards, Subramanyan’s expanded artistic vocabulary grew to incorporate elements from a popular bazaar tradition of glass painting. According to R Siva Kumar, “Subramanyan’s late works were provoking and celebratory, teasing and subversive, humane and irreverent at once. Done with scintillating spontaneity, they were not merely expressive and complex like most things he had done in the past but were also some of his most vibrant paintings. This came partly from his deep engagement with the world and partly from the way he moved from one level of communication, or expression, to another through calculated inflections of his visual idiom.
This artwork description has been sourced from Saffron Art.
K. G. Subramanyan was born in 1924 in Kuthuparambain Kerala, India and studied economics at Presidency College, Madras. The turning point of his life as an artist came when he visited Santiniketan to study at Kala Bhavan, the art faculty of Visva Bharati University in 1944 under the guidance of Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij. Subramanyan studied there till 1948.
In 1951 he became a lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts in M.S. University in Baroda. He went to study briefly in London at the Slade School of Art as a British Council scholar in 1956. In 1966, he also travelled to New York as a Rockefeller Fellow where he painted on smaller canvases due to shortage of space which led him to experiment with diptychs and triptychs.
In 1980, Subramanyan went back to Santiniketan to teach painting to his alma mater at Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University. He continued till he retired in 1989 where he was made a Professor Emeritus of Visva Bharati University.
His visual language combines a variety of elements like art principles of European Modernism and folk expression. He is known as a painter, muralist, sculptor, printmaker, set designer and toy maker. Subramanyan’s works from the late 40’s reflect the influence of his teachers at Santiniketan. Subramanyan reverted to small-scale works on acrylic sheet revisiting his favourite themes of brilliantly coloured interiors, domestic animals and brazen women. To this he has added Christian mythology and contemporary politics.
He has received the Kalidas Samman in 198 1, the Padma Shri in 1975, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2012. Subramanyan resided in Baroda with his daughter Uma, towards the later days of his life and he passed away there in 2016.
This artist bio has been sourced from JNAF.