Patient Practice: R. Varadarajan

Start Date : 01 August 2022

End Date : 04 September 2022

The Government College of Art and Craft, Madras through its various avatars has been responsible for promoting and propagating an artistic movement that enveloped the South and anointed the students as torch bearers of progress. Since its inception in 1850 till our protagonist Vardarajan makes it to the scene, the voices and aesthetics of the School had completely transformed. In the 1940s and 50s the School produced many artists under the guidance of D. P Roy Chowdhury and later K. C. S Panicker. R. Vardarajan was one such artist. 

Born in 1935 in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, R. Vardarajan graduated from Government College of Art and Craft in 1959 under the tutelage of Panicker. The artist’s creative spirit was driven by a patient understanding of the medium and the composition. His works were never simply abstract or figurative. They fostered an enigma that took us through a fantastical journey of trial and error. Using line as a structural element, Vardarajan explored the depth of Indian traditions and voice. The artist like many of his contemporaries across the country were forced to reckon with an independent Indian identity, to investigate and navigate a new vision that allowed them to better their practice and craft. Vardarajan’s works scoped the internal turmoils and struggles, sometimes bound and blindfolded, some screaming out in rebellion. His patient and calm facade cracking open to allow us a peek inside the artist’s true demons. 

Vardarajan although did not take up working in a commercial capacity, his predisposition towards printmaking at the time was acknowledged as commercial art. He leaned into ‘appropriating’ the folk/native/local styles and symbols and mastered it by internalising these aesthetics. The response to this are works that are representative of a larger consciousness, responsible for molding the artist into what he became. With a career spanning more than sixty years, Vardarajan worked with multiple mediums and across multiple  artistic languages, exploring all possibilities of expression.  

He won a Culture Scholarship awarded by the Department of Culture, Ministry of Education for Post-graduation in painting. Later he found employment within the art institution as a teacher appointed in the Commercial art Department, from where he retired in 1994.  His works have been exhibited widely across the country in Chennai, Bangalore, Tanjore, New Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. His work was also exhibited at the International Art Exhibition Paris De Biennale, France in 1961 and the International Graphic Art Exhibition, Poland in 1964. His works have since been collected by institutions such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, the National Art Gallery, Madras, the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi and the Madras State Akademi, Chennai.

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