The Endurance Narrative:
Reflections on Alexander Devasia's Past Works

Curated by Sudhir Patwardhan
Essay by Prof. Shivaji K. Panikkar

October 14 - November 16, 2018

The Guild, Alibaug.


. VIEWS  . WORKS . PRESS RELEASE . ESSAY by Prof. Shivaji Panikkar . Pdf with Installation views,
      images and text


The Guild Art Gallery is pleased to showcase a retrospective presentation of the drawings and paintings of Alexander Devasia curated by artist Sudhir Patwardhan at The Guild, Alibaug. These drawings and paintings were created in the period of the historically significant ‘Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association' and the period after its collapse.   


Curator's Note:  

Sudhir Patwardhan


The period of the nineteen eighties was a strange and somewhat disconcerting one on the Indian art scene. It was a transitional period which finally led to the overall transformation of the scene in the nineties. At the beginning of the decade, in 1981, a figurative-narrative approach to painting had found strong articulation in the exhibition 'Place for People'. Furthering this approach, but simultaneously critiquing the work of the earlier generation was a group of young artists, mainly from the College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum, pursuing further studies in Baroda or Santiniketan. Alexander belonged to this group called ‘Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association'.  Shivaji Panikkar has been a close friend of many artists of this group and an advocate of this short-lived movement. In his perceptive essay in this catalogue, Panikkar looks back at the period and sensitively analyses Alexander's work as it grew out of and beyond the confines of those times. 


I encountered Alexander's work for the first time in his exhibition at the Jehangir Art Gallery in 1991. What struck me and attracted me to the work was the intimacy with which landscape was painted.  The intimacy seemed to hark back to the work of a very private artist like Bonnard, and at the same time the work was seeking to belong to a community. Alexander's paintings and drawings of the eighties and nineties, brought together for the first time in this exhibition, represent this heroic but troubled period in Indian Art, when deep personal impulses were seeking a connect with community life.


Excerpts from an essay by Prof. Shivaji K Panikkar: 


 “How do artists deal with losses of both personal and larger historical dimensions is a narrative that lent substance to Alexander’s art. His art making practice in those troubled years; the very process of re-investing in art was a process of renegotiating with life. The very act of his moving around into actual locales carrying necessary tools, and getting deeply into immersive act of drawing allowed him a possibility to survive. Having pursued training in art making at the art institutions in Trivandrum and Baroda, his experience had also been importantly enhanced by making art in relation to the community. This had been one of the central concerns for Alexander, and early such experience was while living and working among the fishing community at Vettukadu, a village near Trivandrum. The ordinary folks and their lives inspired a possibility for art, and so Alexander wrote in the display note that “I believe that the possibility of making true art is enabled through brave responses to life and a self-identification to people.” (From the brochure of the exhibition held at the University Student’s Centre, Trivandrum, 1985)


“The works on the show were done during such an exhilarating time; the morale and hope was shattered, and faith in anything having a radical possibility suddenly became absent.  The intense pain - a sense of tremendous loss and agony combined with certain peculiar sense of guilt and remorse was the reality for all to deal with. Crucially, on the other hand, all had to also cope-up with the absence of any kind of support from the art world’s mainstream. As such the Radical movement had antagonized everyone in the art world and so there was none that they could have looked-up for support. Given that, in retrospect it is clear that it was by immersing in the alchemic processes of art making that could enable a resurrection for many or most others. Alexander is not an exception in such a process of struggle and resurrection, although his resilience asserted through his art making practice had amazed me, perhaps because of our closer proximity to one another. This is especially significant since the survival as an artist at a time when the life’s going-on was so tough, how art making served as a proverbial straw to the drowning is exemplary in his instance.  He was not an exception, but art making was surely a therapeutic process that helped to heal, and that in turn enabled a renegotiation with the world at large, especially with the rejected mainstream. The return, the compromise and the re-admission of the prodigal were slow but inevitable” 


Shivaji K. Panikkar, art historian and Professor, School of Culture & Creative Expressions, Ambedkar University.

Alexander Devasia

Born 1963, Kerala
Bachelor of Fine Arts - Painting, College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum, 1979-1985; Post Graduation, Faculty of Fine Arts, M. S. University, Baroda, 1986-1988. In 1987 he and others founded the Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association.

His select solo exhibitions include The Endurance Narrative: Reflections on Alexander Devasia’s Past Works curated by Sudhir Patwardhan at The Guild, Alibaug, 2018; Mekham-Speaking Clouds, 2008 and Song of The Crowd, 2006, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai; Singing In The Rain, Galerie Mueller & Plate, Munich, Germany and Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 2005; Jazz-Club-Galerie, City Museum, Regensburg, 2004; Galerie WebKunsthaus, Wessling, 2000; Autoren Galerie 1, Munich, Germany, 1999 & 2000; Ten Suspended Images, Times of India Gallery, Cochin and Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 1997 & 1998; Paravoor Public Library, Kerala, 1996 & 1993; Work on Paper, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 1995; Chitram Art Gallery, Cochin, 1993; Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai 1991 and College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum, 1983.

His select group exhibitions include Representation – II, Triva Contemporary Art, Trivandrum, 2007; Double-Enders, a travelling exhibition Mumbai, Delhi, Cochin and Bangalore, 2005; East-West, Galerie Mueller & Plate, Munich, 2003; King’s Foot Gallery, Madison, 2003 & 2002; Foreign Artists living and working in Munich, Trafo Neuhausen, Munich, Germany; State Museum for Ethnology, Munich, Germany, 2001; Artists of the Gallery (paintings), Autoren Galerie 1, Munich, 2000 & 2001; Creative Process, curated by Shivaji K. Panikkar, The Guild, 1998; Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association, Calicut (Kozhikode) 1989; Questions and Dialogues, Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association, 1988.

Along with Sylvie Bantle he has made short films and documentaries that have been shown at international film festivals.

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