Artists

In a world of increasing contrasts where many realities exist separately - unaware of or indifferent, even hostile to one another, where alien appearances deny inherent links, Rimzon wishes to restore a basic wholeness among entities, facts and phenomena, among sensations, significance and perceptions. This may be natural for the artist born and living in Kerala, a region which has preserved its verdant habitat and the authenticity of archaic beliefs, rituals and arts while, advancing as well as suffering from democratic reforms and consequences of globalisation. The artist acknowledges and probes the diversity of it, the exuberance, excess and clash, but only to, with calm intensity, look for the essence and bonding underneath. His method where lyrical, corporeally emphatic intuition, without contradicting, prevails over intellectual concepts, involves initial facing of direct, often stark, actuality that becomes then stimulated to reveal its less evident sides, and eventually paring it down to the most rudimentary elements. The rudimentary for him, far from being limited, means bared of anecdotes and decorations to what is vital whether in its positive or disturbing aspects.

Early on, Rimzon relied on the found object of chance and on the so treated realistic or expressively exaggerated figure as a starting point taken from the immediate surroundings. Its placement in the vicinity and juxtaposition to other objects - forms yielded unexpected associations and revelatory insights into broader paradigms of existence. Soon enough, the sculptor began to use traditional symbols and important but ordinary things of daily routine quite in the way of found objects. Preserving their classic or common-sense content, he yet extracts them from the same, until they turn into something else, into signs pointing towards intimate as well as universal and socio-political reflections. Throughout his art, the ancient permeates the present-day. The natural resides in the domestic, the sacred in the societal. Throughout too he has been working with a restricted number of potent images - sings that, on the one hand, bear clear meaning but, on the other, are latent with richness of manifestations and with the ultimate enigma. Thus, the core underlies its simultaneous metamorphoses.

Rimzon’s holistic sensibility draws on archaic layers of experience from the time when the human mind and feelings did not distinguish between the mundane and the divine, the physical and the spiritual. He finds this propensity not deficient but a value that can unite. Extending it onto current reality he sees people and other entities as participants in a continuum of eternal, past and current states punctuated by cosmic and mundane rhythms in the cycle of living, dying and re-birthing, where benign forces coincide with damaging ones on all levels from the familiar to the political, none being independent of the others. In a rather similar manner he appropriates, interprets and transposes material from art history. Among his main motifs there is the earthen pot-the womb of fertility, nourishment and plenty belonging to the mother goddess, to the waters and to the woman. When paired, it may allude also to fertile masculinity. It is the vessel of the body, the world, the self and the spirit but also the container of feudal cruelty to the untouchable. The egg, the shell, the stone and the mountain relate to its iconography and actual roles. The loaded simplicity of those volumes can be compared to and partly derived from the element of abstracting that is intrinsic in old Kerala art. Reduced from a background of dense, ornate vibrancy, yet still sensuous, it serves as a vehicle of metaphor and a path to transcendence, like in the oval mirror of the great goddess in which the worshipper’s reflection stands for the individual’s identity with the non-iconic absolute.

Rimzon does not stylise but imbues the essence of ancient imagery with that of his own contemporary minimalist disposition. His house - a home and shelter for tender feelings and sustenance becomes a temple. The shape schematised within the mass and volume, under its geometric linearity turns almost into an idea while retaining the emotive physicality of its skin-like texture. Its connectedness with other forms, sensations and thoughts is set off by a literal yet lyrical proximity or merger, by the paradoxes of scale alteration and by what the artists calls the experience of a dream. His lover couples seem to be impregnated by the life breath and in affectedly, erotically graceful like young people we know. The pull and push between energy and immobility there, between eternal flux and stasis lets one intuit vast forces acting in tune with some logos that guides everything’s and reverberates in it. It is an visible in the images anchored in archetypes as in those ever triggered by topical issues. The vertical figures alluding to tirthankaras withstand threat from the weapons of labour’s aggressiveness and of social violence. Their placement in the classic mandala of containment and protectiveness imbibes characteristics of installation. The swords pointing at the man in prayer or undermining the peaceful stability of the home and the full pot are to be accepted; uncertainty, pain and death to be endured on par with relishing serenity, warmth and pleasure.

The artist knows that nothing can be named with precision and understood completely about objects which are directly accessible yet ever metamorphosing, influenced also by our subconscious and by the mystery of origins, living and dying. Hence, the artist aims only to evoke the sheer encounter and mood of the condition as a whole whose cogency as well as contradictoriness remain complementary and permeable. Although his sculptures are solid, physical volumes, from within their massiveness and concreteness one can grasp basic, subtle phenomena which echo in the artist’s poetic imagination and in the gravity of his intuition that includes a degree of conceptual means. His imagery is open, too, inducing the viewer to a distanced and simultaneously immediate contemplation that allows for multiple reading.

It must have been inevitable, consciously as well as instinctually, for Rimzon’s art - revolving around fundamental, primordial forms, feelings and ideas embodied in the supple matrix of metamorphosis and continuance - to realise itself in sculpture. For long, he worked with terracotta, plaster and fiber-glass whose partly abstracted textures were endowed with qualities oscillating between live, firm-fragile skin or earth and hard yet pliant stone or metal. In consistence with the perennial validity in his address, the more recent images began to be cast in bronze. “The bull in their dreams” is the current version of a work done in the early ‘90s. Is combines the spontaneous expression of a condition on the verge of different yet vitally same entities with a sequential setting of conceptually conceived installation. The heavy, forceful bull statue remembers the Mohenjo-daro image of animalistic and male fecundity, its body developing some human traits, while the massive head, undifferentiated from the torso, appears to partake of inanimate matter as well as transpose into a phallus and a container. The linear progression from the bull to the concave vessel of femininity, water, well and womb generates the twig of the forest and of the family tree.

The other bronzes have accommodated the manifold sources of the imagery and their transformations, but harness those in tight containment, so conjuring foci of universal potency. Throughout, there is an emphasis on ample, dense, rounded volumes that, on the one hand, evoke the breathing tactility of animated beings out an epiphany of earthly and cosmic occurrences and powers. The tenderness with which the artist handles the sculptures assures the sense of the actual. His minimalist aesthetic, yet, makes them, not so much symbols, as signs of phenomena, feelings, states and dynamism. The forms as holding, pregnant, brimming and mutating on their own find a reciprocation in the trails left by the sculptor’s hands which moulded the clay before it turned into metal, of his smoothing and pressing the matter which gave in as well as pushed back from inside and imprinted its body and energy on the surface. The dual tension and its achieving resolution evoke an aura around the balance of personal effort against and within the forces of the larger matrix. They suggest also the artistic process through Rimzon’s grappling with his material and with the imagery that seems to be at the same time emerging from his feeling mind-body and from the defined, still magma-like substance of reality. In particular that the sculptures are smallish, the viewer gains a palpable, close contact which nonetheless involves a wider reflection where individual, half-realised memories blend with archetypal paradigms. Although always sensuous, their skin looks as if it was covering a void and sagging over it. Occasionally pierced or opened, it exposes the possibility of entering the hollow within. The presence of mystery so unveiled, or just glimpsed, reminds that being can be considered only against the inconceivable premonition of non-being, and brings in the Buddhist notion of shunya, or the nothingness of the phenomenal world.

The quintessence of these compact sculptures informs the simplest horizontal piece whose highly abstracted oval yields a carnality that is imbued with lyricism. The nearly golden shine of it, mingled with darker hues of a rough, as though peeling patina, conjures the hiranyagarbha - the cosmic convergence of all dormant growth and complementary diversities, as it is beginning to stir and metamorphose. The primeval ovum could be a phallic shaligrama stone and a womb with budding organic forms. The almost geometric linear ridges arch over its volume are rendered softly as if vital residues of an iconic ornament preserved the memory of foreskin flesh as well as of the trajectories of vastness.

The further transpositions deepen such mutually completing opposites as well as harmonies them indicating a return to the original wholeness. The egg becomes the belly of a woman and the circle of the globe, its swollen surface plunging into the navel; its mass oscillating between convexity and concavity, rising along the rim to gather birth to entities, holds them and closes onto itself. The somewhat coarse surface of it evens out elsewhere as the sumptuous, tangible skin of a belly and offers an elevated plateau for a sacred stone, a head-person and a house of protective motherly warmth. The home is a temple affirming mundane love as inseparable from divinity. Two merged bellies one on top of the other, two containers or two holy mountains are sites of bodily belonging and of worshipful prayer. They support-receive a human figure which is prostrating in salutation and embracing the matrix. The bronze combines warm carnal tones with cooler patina blues of antiquity.

Symbiotic binaries in metamorphic permeability gain definition in the vertical work surmounted by a vagina-like shrine of the goddess. A form of the world mountain, it becomes a partly amorphous phallic volume. The reciprocity and ultimate identity of the female and male principle is epitomised by the mountain as vessel, as the twin urli bowl of motherly and ritual nourishment suggests also testicles, its metallic smoothness skin-resembling again. The arched shrine steps into a gaping hollow within, while underneath an empty silhouette of the sword, an attribute of violent masculinity, cuts into the same enigma of formlessness, death and the self. The conjoined duality of the genders and of birthing-killing is as timeless as it is recognised in womb of the great goddess, has been fractured and the icons rendered non-existent. The barren recesses on the rock face echo in the acute void of the vagina cut into the surface under the harsh rectangle of a coffin.

Rimzon always draws alongside sculpting. Such drawings are not preparatory sketches. They do revolve around motifs and meaning central to his sculpture but probe its essence from angles that either not be possible to achieve in the language of volume or, more often, reveal aspects of plasticity in a different perspective and impact. The artist may use rudimentary outlines, rough and awkward or pained in their reduction to the core, and yet registering a tender tremor, their intimacy touching the raw nerve. Sometimes his strokes on the flat consider structure, volume and mass through silhouette contours, surface, concavity and hollowness. More than that, from varied lines, from the opaqueness and tonalities of charcoal and dry or oil pastels, he creates suffused by a dense atmosphere emblematic or primeval, states and feelings. Frequently it is an ancient forest with trees of tight-smooth, spiraling branches whose energy is spreading under a heavy nocturnal sky impregnated by the sacred and illuminated by phantasmagorical misty stars. The forest surrounds and embraces gable-roofed temples lending them its gravity. Amid pathways meandering through universal connectedness, an enormous bowl full of milky liquid seems to be reflecting and bonding with the moon. A shrine at the summit of a holy mountain, too, emits such glow rising from the rock’s womb and absorbing the weight of the heavens. There are hills there and stones that contain as much potency as the huge wild fruits hanging from trees. Sporadically, a human figure becomes part of the landscape, as archetypal as nature and as dual of character as this world, the sacred and the self. Sometimes it is a bearded sage, a wondering hermit of renunciation, sometimes a warrior seated in the lotus position who has rested his curved sword beside him. The weapon’s sinister implication, though, is never forgotten. The ancient land of dark radiance gives and sustains life as well as takes it back, while we participate in the recurrences of the cycle.

Quite like Rimzon needs to alternate the complementary media of sculpture and drawing, so within sculpture itself he tends to shift from and back to compact single forms which are self-expressive and multi-figural ones which involve a degree of installation dynamics. Whilst the bronzes discussed above belong among his densest, most enclosed images, they have led the artist to a work comprising of five fairly complex figures that function as an entirety divided into an interactive sequence of mutually enhancing constituents. Such return was necessitated by the nature of the phenomenon concerned here - human slavery imposed by centuries of social laws and psychologically internalised, a condition which determines the behaviour of one community in relation to another. Although it may not be instantly clear, Rimzon acknowledges his, not just inspiration from, but dialogue with Michelangelo Buonarroti’s slave marbles. The western master’s statues are an embodiment of individual struggle against enslavement. The idealised naturalism of these male nudes possesses classic grandeur and tragic dignity, as they writhe dramatically and wrestle with their burden, restraint and the weight of labour - athletic and beautiful even when dying. Their frequent immersion in unfinished stone emphasises the physicality of the bounding in contradiction to the spirit that never gives in.

Rimzon’s vision comes from a very different reality. Avoiding the specifics of this reality with its system of casts and outcasts, he captures the mechanism of subservience typical to this country but universalised enough to point towards traits common to all humanity. His figures belong to the Indian physique and aesthetic. To repeat it, they belong also to the prevailing here hold that socially established paradigms have on the person who so remains exemplary of those paradigms rather than independently motivated. With utmost attuning as well as with the sharpness of distanced observation, the artist the ritualised enactment of a social theatre as it becomes absorbed by individuals who are aware of the sanctioned ways of responding to those higher up in the hierarchy as well as express them unconsciously. The sculptures, blacker than most of the previous bronzes, recall some of the voluptuous majesty of the classic indigenous statuary, whereas at the same time evolving qualities of puppets steered by external agencies. They are represented using, and perhaps of their own will demonstrating, gestures and stances of salutation, awaiting, acceptance, passivity, of readiness to fulfill orders and surrendering in anticipation of what is to come. If such patterns of behaviour are instilled by societal conventions the soft, pliable and in a way graceful bodies reflect the conditioning as incorporated towards mental servility. Characteristically to the feudal ethos, at a confluence of awe and fear, the figures seem to derive their dignity form refining and cherishing their subservience, from elevating it to a virtue. The nearly brutal lucidity of the image, nonetheless, hides much compassion and warmth.

Whether at the moment he dwells primarily on precious, affirmative manifestations of life or on violence and death, the artist has been saying all along that wellness has to be known together with pain, since both inescapably shape our existence. Art can have a cathartic contribution in helping to intuit this. Rimzon’s images stimulate the viewer here all the more profoundly that their impact remains manifold, as even his abstracted, conceptually formulated pieces shelter a tactile sensuousness, while corporeally evocative ones carry a universal or philosophical aura to be received by sensations and emotions as well as the intellect. Addressing simultaneously the macro scale and offering it to intimate recall and interpretation, he desires to awaken a transformative potential through the unfolding of the spectator’s experience.

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