PARTICIPANT / Surendran Nair

  • Name Surendran Nair
  • Country India
  • Vocation Not Available
  • Education Not Available
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Born in 1956 in Onkkoor, Kerala, Surendran Nair did his BFA (Painting) from College of Fine Arts, Kerala in 1982 and Post Diploma (Printmaking) from M.S.U. Baroda four years later.

The artist, well known internationally, uses a mixture of traditional and contemporary imagery, including cinema posters and political graffiti, in his work. His paintings can be, in turn, mischievous, ironic and quizzical as they inject a gentle surrealism into prevailing notions of reality. As if recycling traditions from a cultural encyclopaedia, he meticulously constructs a web of images – mythic, modern, classical and mundane – growing out of the body of cosmic man.

In his body of his work titled ‘Corollary mythologies’, Nair weaves together visual strands from both Indian and Western art and mythology to create new and idiosyncratic icons. By intentionally leaving the works open to interpretation from multiple viewpoints, he nurtures a dialogue on crucial issues for the future in India concerning the community and the individual.

According to the artist, this particular series is about belonging and dissent. He notes: “I imagine it to have political undertones, however subtle, which is informed of History, mythology, real and imaginary events. Art history, notions of tradition and identity and its relationship with modernity, of language, sexuality, politics, religious and other faiths etc. Without emphasizing any of these in particular, I address these issues simultaneously. Sometimes rendered sentimentally, literally, cryptically or otherwise metaphorically oblique, they are both detached and reflective and at times often with a mischievous gaze, making innocent jokes, and at other times being ironical and quizzical too.”

His painting titled ‘An actor rehearsing the interior monologue of Icarus’ at a group show to be held at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi attracted controversy. It was contended that Nair’s work depicting a naked Icarus, the Greek mythological figure, on top of the Ashoka Pillar, could not be used within a government institution. Nair then withdrew from the show as a mark of protest. He wanted to know how the painting could be constituted as a slight to a national symbol.

He has had several solo shows of his work exhibitions apart from participating in prominent group exhibitions. Among his select shows are Graphic Prints, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1986; India in Switzerland, Centre Genevois de Gravure Contemporain, Geneva, 1987; The Labyrinth of Eternal Delight, Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery, Sydney, and Casula Power House, 1996; The New South, Delphina Studio Gallery, London, 1996; 6th Biennale of Contemporary Art, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal, 1996; New Shoes for Mercury, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, 1997; The Search Within, Kloster Pernegg, Graz, Austria, and The National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi, 1998; The 1st Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan, 1999; Capital and Karma – Recent Positions in Indian Art, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria, 2002.

The artist lives and works in Baroda.


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