Santhoshmitra was born in middle class family of Kerala. He received a 5 Year National Diploma in painting from College of Fine Arts, Thrissur. Santhoshmitra has been exhibiting his paintings and sculptures all over Kerala since his departure from college fine arts Thrissur. After his academic art practice he set out series of paintings on some particular subjects as everybody knows about his Basheer series and others. In this series of painting common man and the nature were the central idea. Poverty and the marginalization of the common man in the juncture of post emergency period of Kerala is picturized with the dynamic expressionist style. The characteristic of the common man is portrayed as objective and it is enshrined against the narcisstic vision of the middle class. Santhoshmitra has painted these images with the heavy brush strokes and massive continues lines incorporate with the gorgeous colors. His natural love of sensuous form of nature led him to depict them with the intricate line and richly detailed shapes in his Basher series. Santhoshmitra’s drawing has embellished the Basher characters and their affinity to the nature and compassionate approaches of the writer (Basheer) to his companions around the nature with out losing the modesty of them. This was the seminal conception of Santhoshmitra’s compositions. After the Basheer drawing series Santhoshmitra obtained the self clarity and showed brilliance to deal and criticize the nature centric issues on the basis of the novel perspectives which is being universally evolved against the environmental exploitation. Though he is a government employee [Artist and photographer of Calicut university, Kerala, Santhoshmitra keeps working and looks his creations as a indefinable and unavoidable karma with his conditions, so this could be the reason to exist as a creative painter. Santhoshmitra’s new compositions elucidate about a turbulent nature and the existential challenges of innocent creatures, those are being exploited and destructed . In this exhibition he deals a spectacle which is not noticed yet. Domestic goat, a metaphorical image is become the protagonist for his new paintings and sculptures.
Following this interview was a casual conversation of Sujith and Santhoshmitra when they meet from their Native land Cochin and this is developed as a descriptive extension of Santhoshmitra’s monologue about his stylistic evolution, conceptual approaches ,compositional logic and the remarks about the contemporary art of Kerala.
Sujith: Why typical images like goat, dog and others were selected? Is animal an obsession as far as you are concerned? Because I have often felt that u are using these images as metaphorical, what do you think?
Santhosh: Definitely, those have been used as metaphors in my paintings because my style is slightly narrative and I always characterize these images as human beings. It can be seen as a sarcasm which frequently helps the beholder to understand the conception. As I had told you about the characterization of images, that is essential. I think the animals do not have a spiritual life that is why they are seen as inferior than human beings though they have better sensibility and logic more than human beings and also animal was the first evolution creature of human being. This kind of thoughts stimulated me to think about a nature orientated style, in that animals especially domestic animals were my basic concern because I have experienced a village life and relation to the domestic animals in my childhood .Now I got alienated from that life . Some animal archetypes already registered in my unconscious, so animals getting an obsession in my works.
Sujith: How have you made the sarcasm with goat in these works?
Santhoshmitra: As far as the domestic goat is concerned, it was considered as a fertile animal and it had got a proper preservation and freedom to live in home and play with children because its body language is more comfortable to move with human. Calm nature attracts human. Despite the goats have these qualities it destroys everything in the absence of man. This feebleness is attributed on human character to tease the human follies around me and itself an irony of human character that man creates his traps himself with out the .anticipation about life, goat is also like that, he puts head inside the pot with out knowing the consequence. Now goats brought up and slaughtered for meat and milk in big farm houses. It lost its own space in nature through this shift. In my paintings I have drawn rather enlarged tits of the goat and pealed bodies to counter the clinical attitude of man to the animal. In some works I have used the withered trunks and leaves of the jack fruit tree, that picturise the cadaverous environment and it romanticize the feelings of the common man about his past. It denotes a gap in between nature and human being, sentimental and compassionate mind state of artist will be questioned by himself when he becomes a part the same nature. So this might be confession of me.
Sujith: Profound influence of Germen expressionism can be seen in your works. How you were influenced?
Santhoshmitra: Germen expressionism was more acceptable style as far as that generation is concerned in my academic time because of the socio- political condition of Kerala was slightly polluted by the consequence of emergency period and the intervention of the members of Indian radical group of painters and sculptors in art discussions forced us to see art as medium to tell the remarks about society. Problems of the common men and rural subject were discussed through our art works. Porcelain smoothness of retrograded realism was abandoned and row and spontaneous impasto style of painting and rough textured sculpture technique were applied on art works .All the works had a consolidate nature in formal appearance and it raised questions against the retrograded aesthetical norms of religion and all mystification in art as well. In India also the modernism rejected all western classical canons of art and accepted indigenous and folk style. This was also a reason for selecting Expressionism more suitable style
Sujih: How would you vindicate the adoption of expressionist style to your realm of art? Do you think that is expired, all most your contemporaneous artist gave up this no? What is the relevance still?
Santhoshmitra: My creations are born from the vision of; ‘Art should be the reflection of present’ Politics of my art has been evolved from ecological issues, the destructed nature and exploited creatures are depicted on my canvas as victims of human’s panic consumerist culture. Here everything is got buyable .man sees the animals in slaughterhouses; nature in the television channels and hear about nostalgia and hereditary of his province from tourism industry. Nothing can be compensated, only the mute protection. My works are a lonely protest and support to the new thoughts and perspectives which is being evolved on the basis of contemporary eco politics. Through my works I represent a wounded nature. An array of vulnerable vista of a nature is being deployed in the exhibition, for that I have used grotesque and rough style. I think this more suitable for me as well as the subject of the works. And Expressionism is never expired as style, it is getting back as more strong as Neo-expressionism in art. Styles have never been considered as a barrier for way of expression in postmodern art, any style can be applied, but there should be conceptual reason. There are lot of artist working in neo expressionist style like Anish, Kapoor, Kiefer,Chery Samba, William Kendridge. In a subtle manner their works are stylistically and conceptually clichéd though they do not show the lineage links with germen expressionism
Sujith: what do you think about recent art of kerala?
Santhosh: It is rather positive. Indian contemporary art scene is being nourished with contributions of Kerala’s eminent artist .It will mark a golden age in Indian history of art because kerala artists have shown genius to deal the socio political issues in art with the diversity of individual style with help of information technology and other electronic devices as Indian art scene never seen. Market booming compelled the artist to make panic production of the works and this trendy production approaches towards works decreased the quality of the works. Some easy formulas were discovered by the Kerala artist for producing number of the works. This infectious trend in art has embodied a vacuum and discursive style of painting and sculpture. In fact the manifestation of the works became as it were content less but the fabrication of the content reflects the presents of the content. The recent exhibitions entirely receded into only professional presentations of the art work in the galleries. However I think the artists have realized the consequence of the market booming.
Sujith: Role of the painting at present is frequently discussed on the basis of the technological canons of seeing and listening. Do you think the two dimensional format of the painting is being slightly detached from the totality of the pertinence art to time of the contemporary man? If the relevance of the conventional format is retained, is that a pseudo requisite?
Santhoshmitra: If we summarize the vision of Leonardo about the arts. He compares painting, sculpture, music and poetry in various ways and claims that painting is superior to all other arts. Sculpture lacks component of color and effects of the light and shadow compared to painting, which endures; music is ephemeral, being as swift to die as be born. Regarding poetry Leonardo demonstrates the vast difference that exists between the arbitrary nature of words and the universality of the images. Thus the painting shows superiority over the arts. But Leonardo’s arguments were questioned by the modern artist in twentieth century. One of the characteristic perceptions of the twentieth century art was its persistency to question the long tradition of painting as a privileges medium of representation. Braque’s and Picasso’s determination to incorporate everyday material in their paintings Such as news print, tablecloth or rope was expressive of their struggle to extend the content of the canvas beyond paint them. But the painting was simultaneously practiced as medium for doing experimentation .Then the pioneer of the conceptual art Marcel Duchamp subverted the usual expectations of the conventional viewers with his fount objects series. Simultaneously his vandalistic conception seems to have made, sensibility in some artist about the consequence of the use of readymade, that is why some artist kept the conventional way of painting and sculpting in modern and post modern eras. However the multimedia is used as not only as a nostrum against the conventional way seeing but also to retain the life of the time and space as it is. On the basis of the market booming also two dimensional space of the painting is promoted rather a big scale. But the unawareness of the technology often obstructs the Kerala artist to do experiments in art with the new media.
(Sri. K.S. Sujith: MFA student in Art History, Viswabharathi University, Shantiniketan, West Bengal)