Artists

"My paintings are abstract drawings. I draw colour".

Drawing and colour, two tools of artistic mediations have been effectively explored and negotiated by the genius of Adimoolam. These tools in artistic language are interchangeable and remain the dominant means for communication of ideas, visions, expressions, and representations (mimetic and reductive imagery).

Adimoolam through his artistic journey of about four decades has confronted, encountered and productively integrated the stylistic influences both modern and traditional. This dialectical relationship over years of passionate dedication and single-minded vision has resulted in the versatile body of works that are as varied as linear to painterly. Through the medium of line, Adimoolam realized the strength and virtuosity of this simple yet dominant artistic tool, when he precipitated his empirical experiences to have valence as 'drawings' and 'sketches' in their own right. With effective manipulation of his linear strokes he achieved dimensionality through play of chiaroscuro as well depth of psychological insight in his portraits both humans and animals. As he played with line sometimes seriously, or playfully or gleefully and with virtuoso character he felt an urge to move on in another dimension and that is when he introduced colour and gradually turned abstract. This transition from one medium to another is reflective of the creative urges that need exploration and realization. In this respect when one is confronted with Adimoolam's canvases it is an encounter that is meditative and contemplative, subtly projecting his ideologies whether in a linear mode or painterly compositions. His canvases sublimate inner visions borne out of interaction with the world outside and contained within his subconscious. No artist can deny these encounters of sensory bombardment that sediments within the subconscious and emerge at particular moment to make it meaningful or expressive. And Adimoolam capitalizes on these empiricity and intuitions, which carry valence, since he effectively combines empathy with sensitivity. In a naive manner Adimoolam confesses to being no philosopher or an ideologue so to speak. Though very simplistic in its confession, subsumed within such utterances are deep-rooted desires for expressions of varied nature begging to find form as painted statements.

Strategic Intervention with Line

A senior artist on the contemporary national scenario, Adimoolam was an alumnus of the Government College of Arts and Crafts Chennai (1960-1966). He established his credentials at that critical juncture in the 60s, when within the Art Institution, a discourse on "Indiannes" was a major argument by senior teachers like K C S Paniker, S Dhanapal, A P Santhanaraj, L Munuswamy and others on issues relating to questions of authenticity and Indian ethos within the paradigm of Third World consciousness. From art-historical perspective this was the defining moment for the Madras Group of artists who made a dent on the national scene through the cult of nativism or indigenism. Within this vitiating milieu, it was young Adimoolam who settled on the trajectory of creating drawings. And interestingly among the students (who later emerged as successful fine artists) it was Adimoolam who consciously adopted the precocious and versatile line to define his expressive figuration. To the exclusiveness of colour he worked his drawings with such depth that he became its proficient critique.

Adimoolam is one of the foremost artists of the Madras Group who defined and redefined the multifaceted appeal of drawings. He broke away from the much-maligned 'academic drawing' that was propagated by the colonial establishment. Paniker had set a new trend with short choppy lines creating fudgy and furry effects, juxtaposed with the historical traditional line drawn from pictorial and plastic imagery inspired from temple sculptures patronized by the Southern dynasties as well the folk and tribal art forms. Adimoolam's articulation of line varied on the contingency of creating form whether human or otherwise. An intervention of this nature' with this elemental tool marked him to be distinct because he was in full control to fulfill his artistic needs. This explains his diversity and dexterity of employing it as a short hand. It was not enough that he created virtuoso sketches or diagrammatic images with the purity of his line, but advanced it to create chiaroscuro through short dense strokes, or overlapped it for spatial depths. The multiplicity of his lines and their application however remained eclectic sourced from masters of the Western shores like Picasso, Klee, Duffy and Matisse, to the empathic lines of his teachers A P Santhanaraj, Munuswamy and Dhanapal his mentor, to derivatives from his cultural matrix of Kollam, palm leaf manuscripts, Jain miniatures among others.

His line was deployed for a subjective purpose and he made it a strategic dimension of his oeuvre. Theoretically speaking his pen and ink drawings and sketches may not come under the realistic category but within linear discourse they subsume a system of values involving close investigation of particulars, a taste for ordinary experience in a specific place and social context; and an art language that vividly transmitted a sense of concreteness. Hence his large body of works goes beyond willful virtuosity or the passive reflexivity of the mirror image. Towards this his series on 'Gandhi' and 'Kings' amply manifest this ideology of sourcing his material from the social context. Nevertheless for Adimoolam it was not simply the national icon or the parody of the colonial Raj but everything was grist for the artist's mill including nature, street scenes, monuments, history, mythology and folklore.

Transition to Abstraction

Early 70's witnessed Adimoolam making forays into the rarified field of abstraction with a series of abstract drawings that was the polarization of his deep commitment to figuration. This significantly marked his artistic maturity, concluding effortlessly his period of figured compositions. In these abstract drawings he attempts to concretize the hackneyed lines to configure geometric shapes and forms, the inspiration for which came from nature in the shape of clouds, rocks and planets. As he worked at his visual language he morphed his organic forms betraying his conscious experimentation with his imagined geometry. It acquired a surreal quality as they floated majestically on the plane of the canvas. These experimentations of Adimoolam are exemplified by the Space Series [1974] drawings that crucially negotiated the relationship between form and space, and light and dark in conjunction with his continued investigations of lines that was now employed for a different purpose. Soon it was a compulsion, which he felt and towards this end he worked methodically andcarefully as he brought his works to another stage in its development. The genre of black and white drawings gradually transformed to coloured abstraction with the aid of coloured ink in his Space Series. Interestingly colours became the main players to add a new dimension to his compositions lending an ambience wherein geometric shapes floated in a fluid space. The colours that he dexterously employed metonymed the sharp definition of objects in terms of metallic blues, sulphur yellows with deep blacks. This series to a large extent clarified his experimentation with colours and also endorsed his sensitivity to the scientific researches in the field of space.

Adimoolam in a material move towards his abstraction was not insulated from his environment as a set of conscious activities idealized by the post painterly abstract painters of the 60s, but rather reflected his awareness to technological advances and researches. By doing so he subverts this negotiation within the arena of high modernism and defines his interactivity within a cultural matrix.

Adimoolam like the others in the group had to grapple with the problem of illusionist dimension in his paintings and his Space Series marked the first signpost in the handling of the space problematic. This series was transitional enabling him to restructure his space, and allowed geometric forms either to be embedded or to be fluid. Compositionally, Adimoolam at this stage was clarifying colour tones having done away with the active employment of line. This series also dealt with abstract planes translated through colour. If line was the vital element earlier, space now became a challenge as he attempted to decipher its intangibility and maneuvers within it. His attention therefore had shifted from specific areas to the total space of the canvas, from related colours to atmospheric tonalities. Deep introspection had ultimately led Adimoolam from the narrow confines of sharp lines to the unlimited gamut of colours.

Without the crutch of line, Adimoolam composed his colours with a rare sensitivity that fluidly was carried across the canvas. The bold white areas were not planned exercises rather the saturation points of his tonal experience. He intuited these critical white areas on the plane of his canvases and rationally juxtaposed it to convey dramatic analysis of their presence. Nevertheless it also points to the noumen - a reality, beyond what is perceived intellectually or visually as he materially invested his composition with arbitrated white spaces. His grappling with problematic space seems to have found a solution in the Space and Forms, (1980) through mediation with colours that enabled a material reading of the space across the surface rather than into it.

With confidence thus gained, Adimoolam now employed colours that were to prove significant. Demonstrating to be equally proficient with its orchestration, as he had done earlier with the versatile line, it marks his dedication and passionate compulsions. These experimentations paved the way for his pure abstracts, investing his vision of nature with colours "nature in its totality interpreted through colours without focusing on any aspect" Unlike Monet, whose field of vision was opticality that translated fleeting and transient moments of evasive light, Adimoolam's forays into the world of nature and its moods was metaphorical that mediated his sensibility in terms of human emotions. Consequent to this the salient features of his frames were the cascading planes of colours; the broad strokes applied with palette knife - the tool, which defined his creative contours.

Inspired and moved by the myriad quantification of chromatic effulgence of nature, the images euphemistically were emotional moods, mediated through metaphors intentionally transforming and reordering his non-iconic vision. The appropriated imagery was noumenal - the world of nature, a thing in itself - working through it to significantly recreate their resonance and marked with visual authority. As he constructed his large canvases, building up layers with his palette knife and brush strokes the bricks of colours, morphed and conveyed human emotions through significant extension of nature's moods - its playful gaiety, somber warmth, terrifying fury or gentleness to scintillating vibrancy of light. "My canvases mirror my mind's journey through nature, not as realistic landscapes or seascapes but in planes of colours creating an esoteric aura on a transcendental level". Adimoolam's complicity with nature inscribed its gamut of moods and conflated the idea with human emotions. There was neither mimicry nor mimetic strategies nor to read nature as the truth of things as Cezanne's landscapes had prefigured; but a transcription of analogies of colour that signified nature as his transcendent language. Ram Kumar, the Delhi based artist had essentially abstracted the bathing ghats of Benaras and generally the urban scapes with its textured life lived at every level into planar forms. Adimoolam in his abstractions eschewed the optical and tactile reality to emphasize not the culture of man but rather the pristine nature when he explicated that "though my work may appear to be a landscape or a seascape it isn't. It is actually a land I can see and feel within myself. A limitless realm of fantasy that man has not tempered". His was an appreciation of transience of things that had as its base the potent subconscious allowing his inherent locked experiences to have valence.

With radical changes facilitating the progress of his art, the first half of the 1980's saw Adimoolam indulging in colours and larger formats. He says, "how can I make my work simpler in colour, shapes and design? I sit before the canvas, just looking at it. Suddenly I decide upon one colour and put a few strokes on the canvas, without being aware of how the painting will take shape. After I have placed two or three colours, I tune in something. The colours lose their identity and gain in dimension as part of the world I am going to create". The tangibility of the trace of one provided a lead to the next mediated through his well-orchestrated palette ranging from blacks, blues, reds, greens, oranges, and yellow engaging in a dialogue to create a world that draws to its core. His colour schemas generate feelings of elemental drives and boundless space. A strong gestural quality manifested his surfaces, exhibiting enormous technical ingenuity. But these gestural marks when compared with Pollock's are in opposition to his manipulation of the non-traditional use of materials. Pollock's attempt was to demonstrate the infinite possibilities of the human mind when concerns addressed free exploration of one's ingenuity stymied neither by cultural specifiers or a daunting tradition.

Signifying a process of emotional precipitation via nature, Adimoolam's colours semanticallyperpetuate his sensual love for the seasons with their myriad dance of tones and values. His unerring judgement towards colour orchestration internalized over years of training and practice created in conjunction with noumenal space, sensations that was 'infra thin' such as the feeling of the width of the piece of paper for the inexpressible subtle relationship between them. In addition to his colour management that he brilliantly achieved the trace of the tool was his signature that Adimoolam postulated was the absence of presence. The patterned squares and confident slashes, the dynamic diagonals and the textured crossover of strokes made it a salient feature of his works remaining depthless depths.

As Adimoolam works his subjectivity through abstracts, the individuated planes of colour have weathered their intensity, the rich textures that once were dominant have paled and descending on the whole arena of his intuitive depths is contemplative stillness. Adimoolam with his years of experience has evolved his abstractions to relive the inner vision" of his mindscapes through the metaphor of nature ensconcing the human emotions to relate with nature's moods. With his versatility it remains to be seen what direction Adimoolam's art will take in the 21st century.

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