Silence is a Temple that needs no god.
- Robert Juarroz
Those who have followed the growth of Akhilesh as a painter would hardly miss the element of continuity that is more mature, more confident, more rooted in his deeply passionate and spiritual vision. He is more himself now, embodying in his art the much cherished autonomy of colours and the intensely desired primacy of form. Looking at a painting of Akhilesh there are now many who would instantaneously recognize it as his work. He has a distinct idiom. He has attained his identity. His is also the rare case where the spiritual resides in the sensuous. He also aggressively believes that form, unencumbered by the need to represent or narrate, is inherently spiritual. The mystic of form primarily, constitutes the mystic of spirit. Spirit emanates from form, and not otherwise. Each work of Akhilesh, therefore, is a passionate search for form. Each painting has a sensuous presence inviting you to ponder and meditate over; an invitation to feel how visual corporeality embodies created reality which liberates your imagination to discover deeper meanings. Akhilesh believes that underneath each colour there is another colour; that colours acquire meaning by coming closer to each other. In blue, grey lies hidden. In the fury of red is buried tranquillity. One can find a metaphor for reality: the visible is only a layer on the invisible. Akhilesh endeavours to invoke the invisible. The great master Rumi said about love: ‘Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere - They’re in each other all along.’ Akhilesh would surely agree that colours are ‘in each other all along’. Akhilesh does not seem to think that colours ought to ride on things and objects or aspects of the known world to be of significance. Colours are things or objects in themselves and he merely creates minimal shapes in seemingly endless repetitions to suggest their innate vibrancy, their life and its numerous rhythms. At one level the paintings could be seen as essays in colours, or to borrow a familiar concept from music, variations on the theme of colours. Here is a ceaseless fulsome and free celebration of colours. They, like music, neither say nor state something tangible: they are and they allow you to be with them not in communion. And as the late Argentinian poet, Roberto Juarroz said: “The impossible never raises its voice”. It is not accidental that Akhilesh’s art, despite its unmistakable passion and fury, is a gentle art, endearing and tranquil. It has no overt intentions: it leaves you in a temple of silence, to listen to yourself, to be able to be close to yourself in the presence of the enormous beauty of being.
Akhilesh readily underlines his debt to many masters. He believes that he took energy from M.F. Husain, colours Syed Haider Raza, courage from J. Swaminathan, spontaneity from Ambadas, formlessness from V.S. Gaitonde and precision from Nasreen Mohamedi. It is a tall claim and an awe-inspiring legacy. But, in another way, the terms energy, colour, courage, spontaneity, formlessness and precision could be easily perceived as constituting his personal aesthetics. The subtle and complex alchemy of these elements can be seen to be in action in his work all along. Akhilesh also does not believe in the popular and the well-entrenched dichotomies of tradition and modernity. In this respect, his experience of working for a number of years in the multi-arts complex Bharat Bhavan has been both fruitful and rewarding. First, it made him aware of the fact that the so-called contemporary is not the exclusive domain of the urban, the rural and the tribal is equally contemporary. Secondly, it inspired him to see the arts in India in their continuity and inter-active contiguity. He got rid of many illusions: one of them, according to him, is a notion that abstraction is a modern idea or innovation. A lot of rural and tribal art of India is naturally abstract. While many well-educated modern Indians look askance at the abstract art of Raza, Gaitonde or Ambadas, the tribal weavers felt at home!
Akhilesh has described his art in the following words:
“My works as usual are the game of hide and seek. This never-ending game I play with colours, forms and lines.. The warmth of the colours is the core of my experience”. Perhaps all artists who use colours, do have a special and unusual feel of colours. But in the case of Akhilesh, colours take him on an unchartered journey; a journey where the pleasure is in the journey and not in the destination. The paintings thus created through an endless wandering, touching void ever so tenderly, caressing the unknown, are always drenched in light and warmth. Again, one is reminded of Jurraroz, who, at a poetry festival in Bharat Bhavan, said: “Nakedness existed before the body /And at times the body remembers it”. Akhilesh’s art could be said to be reaching out in some mysterious way to this pre-existing nakedness, the primeval bareness. Without not so much as even a hint of the body, or its nakedness, Akhilesh endeavors to discover the unveiled, unsullied purity. He knows, as we do, such purity does not exist but also, that art can possibly forge it. A purity not tied to any form or colour and can, therefore, assume a purity of forms and colours. It is in this context that these works can also been seen as hymns of purity.
The Peruvian novelist and thinker has talked of ‘sumptuous unreality’ in the context of art-museums calling them green-factories. Akhilesh could be accused of ignoring social reality, for in his stubborn opposition to representation and narration, he makes no visible concession to time to enter his self-created realm of the timeless, howsoever passionate and revealing universe of purity of forms, and eternity of colours. His is a world of ‘sumptuous unreality’. It can be argued that this unreality offers an alternate reality and is accessible through art. And by this token such art also performs a meaningful social function which should not be undermined or underestimated.
Akhilesh makes you aware of the unreality of it all by teasingly calling them all untitled but ‘formally’, ‘practically’, ‘visually’, ‘alphabetically’, ‘truly’, ‘instinctively’, ‘purely’, ‘spiritually’, ‘financially’, ‘consciously’, ‘unconsciously’, ‘emotionally’, ‘technically’, ‘beautifully’, ‘automatically’, ‘literally’, ‘basically’, ‘uncontrollably’, ‘touchably’. For him, titles are not important for they restrict meaning and work against free interpretation. Akhilesh would like the viewer to have equal freedom to look at art and derive his/her own insight. In a world where forces keep on emerging which curb and circumscribe human freedom, art must be able to create and sustain a space for freedom. Akhilesh is a traveller on a path to discover such a home.
The endearing visuality of Akhilesh’s art is carefully and meticulously constructed. The structure is both free and accommodating. While achancedelementisalways welcome, all the elements are integrated to create wholesomeness. One painting gives birth to another painter and, therefore, one can see a certain integrity and continuity in the series. But each painting also assumes an unmistakable and independent status. A proper viewing of this art entails seeing them as a series and as independent works. The visible is, in essence, an imitation of the invisible.
All light illumines,
It may even dazzle,
But clarity is on the other side of the light.
- Ashok Vajpeyi
From the exhibition catalogue published by Vadehra Art Gallery (2007).