Profile: Akhilesh Kumar / A Lesson in endurance / Sushma Sabnis
Artist Akhilesh Kumar emulates and follows Nature, his eternal muse, and creates his water colour and sculptural installations to drive home some sharp lessons about preservation…observes Sushma Sabnis.
Some people are like monuments in the making. They are created, they evolve, weather the winds and sleet and become surviving, functioning monuments over time to be regarded with respect and awe by others. It takes grit and poise, grace and diligence to evolve into such a natural state.Though rarer in humankind, examples of monumentalism are abundant in Nature. This state is what inspires artist Akhilesh Kumar from Mumbai for his works; the sheer potential of a tiny seed to grow into a monumental tree and shelter, feed, protect everyone is what made him to invoke it in his works.
“My work evolves and revolves around Nature. For me this is the biggest inspiration”, says the artist as he gently caresses a large seed shaped wood sculpture he had installed in one of his earlier shows. “Nature is quiet and gentle in her thought, celebratory in her actions and expressions. This creates a duel of silence – celebration within me, when I look at Nature. I try to bring both these silences and the celebrations into my works using different mediums”.
Akhilesh Kumar comes from an agrarian background. His family hails from the rich fertile lands of a village in Bihar. The influences that nature has on a young mind are long lasting and this is evident in Akhilesh’s works which are at once both resilient and fragile. Not too vocal about his works, Akhilesh often lets the viewer glean for themselves, the messages his works send out. The artist works in two disparate mediums – water colours on paper and metal and wood sculptural installations. With a strict adherence to biodegradable mediums this artist expresses his concern for the violence being carried out on the environment today. “I see the other side of Nature, the violent retaliation in volcanoes, tsunamis and earthquakes, the acid rains and crop failures, rivers running dry and famine; it is time we woke up..”he says.
His love for nature is seen in the garden he maintains with great difficulty, just outside his studio / workshop space. “If one is to clean up the environment, it would require a herculean effort on the part of every single individual in the world, and still we would fall short somewhere as the damage is done over generations and cannot be erased merely by one generation. Hence it is necessary that our children are inculcated to be in tune with Nature and their children too and so forth..” His art installations titled ‘Sprouting forms’ are not mere celebrations of a germinating seed. This seed is a metaphor for the seed of thought as well as the literal embodiment of a future rain forest. Large oval wooden semi-circular halves are held together at the base as they open in anticipated life force, as hair like metal fibres and dainty wooden shoots emerge from them.
His other large scale works which seems like an idyllic meadow with crops swaying in the cool breeze, attached to a solid bed like structure which seems to tell the viewer about how welcoming a green field would be to lay down upon, warm as a mother’s lap. The copper wires spring out sprouting bronze nuts and bolts in a similitude of petals of little flowers. There is something robust about the installation counterbalanced with a startlingly intimate vulnerability. The sensitivity of these works comes through when one observes the way the wires bend at the artist’s will.
This same sprinkling of sensitivity is mirrored in Akhilesh’s water colour on paper works. While the water element moves unrestrained on the paper, the artist however deftly reins in its aimless flow in fluid forms which could be petals of a flower or poplars like Monet’s. They exude the refined elegance and radiance of the majestic forms in Nature along with their ephemerality.
What the artist does through both of his mediums is try to embody Nature herself. Like the caring earth, he patiently creates the mammoth installations almost immovable, and then creates the tender veils of nurturing within them. Like the earth, these forms talk of fertility, variety and the unspoken continuance of life through time. Here is where he draws the viewer into a mental debate about the future of our planet and leaves them conscious and responsible in a precisely aimed cathartic state.
While being a practicing artist, Akhilesh also is the founder of the Po10tial group. Po10tial is essentially an artists’ collective that Akhilesh has formed along with artist Maushmi Ganguly and a few dedicated artists and like minded individuals.
Absorbing the very essence of the earth and its intuitive logic, artist Akhilesh tries to learn soft spoken lessons of survival from his mother Earth.
Is everybody listening..?