THE VISCERAL ABSTRACTS
Hariraam is today an accomplished abstractionist who pursues pure non representational forms in his paintings. His artistic trajectory determined his visual language of abstraction in a remarkable suite of works titled "Enigmatic Staging of Indistinct Forms". Hariram, who initiated his forays into the world of art through landscapes and human imagery, evolved his vocabulary and language progressively until he arrived at his abstraction in 1999. The intensity of purpose and dedicated mission of persistent artistic quest for a visual language of pure abstraction found success and fulfillment in this recent suite of works. This series is autobiographical unfolding his journey, which led from his creative struggles, depressions, hallucinations, subconscious dreams like out of body experiences, intuitive guidance, soul searching, and perceptual experiences; in other words struggles that bore rich dividends of seeking and achieving ‘abstract’ success.
The ‘enigmatic’ and ‘indistinct’ forms finds evocative representations dredged out from his subconscious; and have references to lived reality both perceptual and dream states, made manifest through intuitive handling of techniques and tools. Hence the liminality of crossing over to a world of subconscious and dreams has staged the enigma of indistinct forms. With this philosophy, his approach to art making has echoes to the surrealists’ invention of the techniques known as automatism when forms seem to suggest themselves and paranoiac critical method or a deconstruction of the psychological concept of identity, wherein subjectivity becomes the primary aspect. Both these techniques aptly illustrate the workings of Hariraam’s abstracts, which are the means to his process of making art. Automatism becomes apparent in the suggestion of forms that are inherently vertical and a ubiquity in this particular suite of works. Their juxtapositions with dominant horizontal bands recreate faint echoes of the Stonehenge and hence mystery; evoking in the artists work a sense of architectonic character. The insistent verticality of forms also suggests the aspiring spirituality of the Gothic cathedrals and its formality accentuates the dignity of the compositions. In some the eerie pinks and blacks have an aura of fierce magical play with bizarre faces emerging from the backgrounds suggesting not only enigmatic effects but hauntingly mysterious silences. As a matter of fact, a glance at these enigmatic indistinct forms bear an echo of his landscapes that have now withered to concrete forms and shapes resulting in the minimalization of nature to its pure essence. This marks Hariraam’s posturing of moving beyond and transcending to the realm of metaphysical.
The paranoiac critical method involves negotiating his subjectivity in establishing the language of abstraction ideally through his individuated creative attitude and approach. The identity of the artist is made manifest through distinct and novel means as his methodology of painting, tools, techniques and concepts encapsulating in the process angst, doubts and tensions as part of the artistic journey eventually leading to the deconstructing of his persona.
The small format works have tactility and sketchiness juxtaposed with structuredness. Versatility in the engagement with his medium of acrylics, printmaking and mixed media is obtained through application of paint with brushes, or smeared, dabbed, blotted, streaked, and dripped with brushes, squeegees, and other means. The aesthetics of enigmatic paint textures creates sensuous rich visual dynamics, complemented by the irregular, overlapped, and compressed forms from his brush strokes that make his art “gestural” or “painterly” in character. This approach is in direct contrast to earlier structured geometry inspired by the urban architecture. For Hariraam the binary of control and spontaneity now marks a saliency to making abstractions.
The works reflect deeply inscribed philosophy, introspection and catharsis achieving mystical ecstasy through his reticent play of forms with sublimation occurring in the finiteness of time and space. The ‘reality’ in his abstracts is the conceptual plane – a space which is transcendent and beyond time; establishing the presence of not here and now but ‘beyond’. Along with the forms, the colours have become stronger, intense, magical, haunting and vigorously vibrant; reinforcing the transcendence as they move from the greens and browns of the meadows and mountains, the ubiquitous kumkum reds, the pragmatic yellow ochre the sacred turmeric yellows, the intimate blues, the mysterious coal blacks and to the pristine spirituality of the whites. For Hariraam the sublime is not "out there", as in a landscape or painting, but "in here", related implicitly with his perceptual and intuitive experiences, thus achieving a state of bliss or abstraction where pristine forms exist in its absolute purity.
MS. ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT PH.D.
ART HISTORIAN AND ART CRITIC
FORMER HEAD AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
AN ABSTRACT JOURNEY
The language of abstraction has been explored by many in India and has flowed like a parallel river with figurative language and narration
Hariraam fondly recollects his student days at the Kalamandir School of Art. But his abstract journey has gathered wings from schools of Cholamandal and Mumbai.
If one need to appreciate abstraction one needs to understand the grammar of this visual language and the art historical context that have led to this abstract journey. We can look at abstraction beyond the fundamentals of color, line, form and texture.
The indigenous abstract art in India was an alternative trajectory with the neo-tantric artists riding high on the wave of exotic and spiritual rediscovery of India by the west. The romance with the spiritual, yoga, transcendental meditation, tantrum and classical music led to exotic orientialisation of India. The patrons of art during the 70's and 80's identified with this quest and nurtured all forms of abstraction practiced in the country as quintessentially Indian and authentically local contributions to the postmodern era. Abstraction in contemporary Indian Art is not specific to any geographical region but it has been nurtured in Mumbai as an institutional aesthetic in the JJ School. The reasons are many and it has survived the excess of figuration that is prevalent today.
The two significant modern strains are the abstract expressionism and minimalism from the west. The artists of that time were evolving a synthesis of images, emotions and ideas. Most Indian artists were in the process of exploring another reality, beyond figuration. The world witnessed the "cold war" and the "free world" identified with the sense of the spirit of abstraction. The French influence of the meditative gestural abstraction or the school of Paris and Nicholas De Stael became a mantra to emulate.
The dominant figure moved away to make way to the signs of human presence the pigment was applied in masonry technique of plastering with a palette knife. The picture plane shifts into a non-linear dimension of color field abstraction The artists choose to flow two streams - nature-based abstractions where nature's sensations were translated into color evoking the remembered landscape. The other moved to discover a metaphysical journey traveling into the spiritual journey of self discovery within.
Neo-tantric inspired work and an involvement with archetypal geometry and calligraphy was another trajectory. The artists weave patterns with motifs and text on canvases dyed with elemental and saturated colors of this vibrant land. The bindus and yantras became motifs of meditation and the transformation of sound echoes into form, color and sacred geometry. The layered surfaces with spontaneous gestures and calligraphy were typical; the archetypal feminine energies are unleashed to evoke the forces of nature.
Historically the only manifesto by J.Swaminathan endorsed this indigenous abstract journey with his democratic manifesto of Group 1890. Artists dissect matter to reveal never endings and dynamic molecular movements that are the part of the rasa or essence of life; they track the fundamental organic quality and linearity is transformed into lyrical notations in the hands of others that trace the circuit of charged particles in a maze to unravel the matrix of life.
The meditative canvases of Hariraam are testimonies to control the rhythmic notations of echoes and endless variations of patterns in a grid. Is he the archetypal weaver who catches the light in the warp and weft or woven tapestries ? A transcendental journey was chartered by him and other individuals like K.C.S.Panicker who incorporated calligraphic abstraction as an idiom in a quasi spiritual and scientific vision.
The unraveling of sacred geometry and archetypal signs and symbols, saw new modes of perception of the abstraction by the minimal notations. The references to symbolic forms evolved from ritual and religious involvement of local folk. This was translated on to the canvas to connect imagery with decorative intent rather than a religious evocation of divine iconography. The biomorphic forms arch and curve to construct multiple possibilities to use brilliant hues. The artists play with surface and depth, transcendental invocation of minimal geometry and spatial dimensions in the tradition of Cholamandal.
The use of cartography in space takes wing in younger contemporaries, as they trace the terrestrial and celestial trajectories in graphic notations. They mapped the earth from space and follow the movements of the cosmos like artistic astronomers. With his universal symbols, signs and aviation notations, Hariraam transcends the self from local to global aesthetic and graphic sensibilities.
The JJ School tradition mastered the art of gestural abstraction; layering pigments and overlapping with his gestures. The expressionistic strokes inscribe calligraphic, hieroglyphic notations on the surface. This is superimposed by a dominant color that reveals fragments of light and color. This structure the canvas with linear notations that pin and punctuate poetry from the palette.
Abstract painters and their practice are like parallel rivers flowing with excess of figuration. The many fellow travelers support the journey of another way of looking. The collective learns from each other and evolves distinctive styles that give a vocabulary and identity defining their journey.
It is the spiritual yatra from the terrestrial, an inward journey of meditative mantra of self-absorption. This is a private getaway from the humdrum of the urban chaos into silence and solitude, into monologues with colors, gestures and canvas. Within this paradigm, it has the danger of being self-absorbed aesthetic; exercise without an edge. The accomplished practitioners transcend and renew themselves within their limitations; mutating and surviving in the divergent space, negotiating the metaphysical and aesthetic innovations.
Hariraam's art has matured into his own; his persistence and quiet temperament has created sublime creations of gestural and layered abstractions using the printmaking roller, his technique displays a sense of control and meditation.
( A visual artist, curator and art historian)