The Modernist movement pioneered by the Progressives as a refreshing alternative to the Bengal school is a watershed event in Indian art history. The emphasis, however, continued to be on the long established trend of figuration. Dissent from figuration was, indeed, rare: chiefly practiced by maverick artists, such as Vasudev Gaitonde, Syed Hyder Raza, and Ramkumar.
Surya Prakash’s coming of age coincided with the firm establishment of the Modernist diction. His conscious decision to follow in the footsteps of Gaitonde and Ramkumar is the defining moment in Surya’s career. The artist’s zeal for abstraction was, however, not singular. Surya forged his own path of abstracting reality as he saw it: his visionary panache for abstraction is rooted in realism. His paintings exude a visceral familiarity, yet envelop the viewer in a meditative stance. Surya’s canvases traverse a wide array of subjects—from discarded heaps of junkyard automobiles to desolate landscapes; from barren leaves to the microcosm of lotus ponds, to expansive lush forests. His later works—rendered in signature pointillist style—are reminiscent of classical Impressionism in content, while the form of his paintings echoes a reasoned realism.
The defining characteristic of Surya’s paintings is a carefully nuanced fulcrum balancing the vast spectrum bookended by abstraction and realism—an abstract reality. While the tone and tenor of his paintings are abstracted realities, his passion lies in colour: his visual diction is an abstracted nuance of carefully constructed colour schemes. The mélange of colours—some muted, others vibrant—creates a temper of spiritualism and evokes a meditative stillness.
Surya is indeed a renaissance man: a master painter, landscape designer, and muralist; an ambassador of art, curator, and resident artist at two prestigious institutions. He has been instrumental in nurturing the art milieu of Hyderabad and eventually according the city its rightful place on India’s art map.
As abstracted as his paintings are, Surya is all too real and warm in person. During his long career, he accumulated many friendships. One is fortunate to be an acquaintance of Surya; to know him is a privilege. I have had the honour of counting him as a dear friend over the years. His warm friendship, professional courtesy and inquisitive mind are extraordinary.
This book endeavors the near impossible task of capturing the spirit of the long and distinguished career of Surya Prakash in a single treatise. The limits of prose notwithstanding, Shiladitya Sarkar brilliantly orchestrates a layered and incisive approach to bringing the art and life of Surya into focus.
The book accompanies a retrospective exhibition spanning ten cities across three continents.