Like most people who found time hanging heavily on their hands during the past year and took to cooking, fitness, music or the ilk, SG Vasudev too found something to occupy his time. But unlike most people, this eminent artist’s preoccupation has resulted in 60 works of art, 40 of which are currently on show at the Gallery Sumukha, as Sandhya Mendonca discovered.
I was delighted to meet him at the gallery on Saturday afternoon, after several months. Vasudev celebrated his 80th birthday a few days ago and I am not being a flatterer when I say that he doesn’t fit the stereotype of an octogenarian. He was as spry as ever and quite rosy-cheeked with pleasure at the response to the show, and our interaction became a spontaneous guided tour.
At first I wondered why an artist of his calibre whose oeuvre spans drawings, paintings, reliefs in copper, and tapestries in silk, would want to work on collages. I soon discovered that these are no ordinary collages. Only a master could imbue such heft to scraps of paper, instil aesthetics into found objects.
He had done a few collages for his retrospective at the NGMA in 2018, he told me, but didn’t persist with the medium. Stuck indoors for weeks on end in his apartment in Bengaluru, his eyes came across invitations and brochures, and soon his nimble mind and fertile imagination began to play. And play they did as the figures assumed energetic, joyous, and at times reflective shapes.
While the ‘Tree of Life’ is an eternal inspiration for Vasu, in this series there are new creatures: magicians, dancers, human-animal figures, apart from philosophical abstractions. Inspiration is a self-feeding frenzy and soon he looked within his works. He cut up images of his work from his biography Vriksha — The Art and Times of SG Vasudev (2018) to create new works. From the early collages that he began creating five months ago to the last set, he says, with all humility and sincerity, that his work “evolved”.
Vasu has always inspired people, yours truly among them. He is disarmingly unpretentious and embraces every opportunity to share his knowledge. A conversation with him recharges the grey cells. This time was no exception. I have been battling a creative block and viewing the artworks made me realise that
‘Sometimes you don’t need to look outward for inspiration or purpose, you need to look inward. You can draw from the depths of your past work and experience, and repurpose them with fresh energy and value.’
Whether you find self realisation, inspiration or amusement in the playful zest of the artist’s imagination, this show is certainly not to be missed. The exhibition marks the 25th anniversary of Gallery Sumukha, one of the prestigious private galleries in the city. The gallery follows COVID-19 protocols and viewing is by appointment, and you can call 93804 20041 for a slot. The show is likely to be extended until the end of April.
You might enjoy reading about a biopic on SG Vasudev ‘The Open Frame’