• Gandhi from Kochi

    Riyas Komu

    January 30, 2020

    Oil on canvas; 183 cms x 137 cms (each); 2015

    On International Workers’ Day, Gandhi from Kochi
    Series of five paintings

    "…this painting is based on a photograph taken in 1931, when Gandhi was 62 years old. He was travelling from India to England on a ship to take part in the Second Round Table Conference, which he attended as the sole official Congress representative.

    Gandhi didn’t die of fever, he was murdered. At a time when history is being reinterpreted for political mobilisations and power gains and when the perception of politics is manipulated through well-designed commercial campaigns, it’s very important to fight back with icons like Gandhi for counterargument by juxtaposing our time with his principles and the ideologies that he stood for. Here Gandhi is painted, but a Marxian presence is celebrated.

    I’d like to paraphrase Anita Thampi, one of the leading poets of Kerala, that the Gandhi figure is a marvellously simple one that submits itself easily both to the doodling child and to the master artist; so minimal that a dot or a line cannot simplify it further—an inner and outer simplicity and a stark directness of this figure can readily lure anyone to make it their logo. This figure can easily mislead anyone into thinking that it can be used any which way.

    But the historical gravity and political vitality the symbol wields are not that simple; nor is its intellectual and spiritual depth so light. In Gandhi’s case, the tactic of blacking out something that refuses to succumb by appropriating it is not going to work. Because, Gandhi is a rhizomatic image that is too sharp for such manipulations.

    And Gandhi appears in our lives as a constant reminder of non-violence and tolerance. So it is in this site that Gandhi is positioned as an icon of resistance and fearlessness, which is the most important political weapon we should carry. It’s my attempt to reclaim fearlessness."

    -Riyas Komu, Frontline

    Riyas Komu was born in 1971 in Kerala, and moved to Mumbai in 1992 to study literature. Dropping out during his final year, Komu eventually obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Fine Art from the Sir J. J. School of Art in 1997 and 1999 respectively. The artist’s oeuvre, spanning several different media and genres, is particularly noticed for its strong political overtones. His paintings, to put it in his own words, carry a protest symbol one way or the other.

    Images © Riyas Komu.

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