A river of remembrance
I tend to think where people come from makes them who they are. In my case, it’s a riverine village in southern Kerala. I was born and raised in a house right by the river. For us, it all began with the river. It flowed through us every day, every moment.
The present body of work called Where do we come from? is my visual exploration of this riverine world, where my memory began. By being the geography of the genesis of my visual journey, it greatly influenced my visual vocabulary, set its grammar, and enriched its lexicon. Apart from the geography, the motifs herein seem to recall people and events I knew of, and therefore seem narrative in some sense. However, portraiture or storytelling is not my motivation here. It’s a remembrance of the riverine aesthetic that swathed and swamped my early existence. In that sense, these canvases are largely landscapes, though of reminiscence.
And yet, they are more than that. Looking back at the land of my visual coming of age, I realise I was really raised by the river and the village by it. Indeed, I have been lucky. The river's ecosystem inspired my imagination, intensified my experience of nature, informed my worldview, influenced my aesthetic, and even gave me my sense of colours and textures. I am deeply thankful. I am thankful for the jacanas, the coots, and the coucals; the turtles by the mudflats, the frogs in the puddles. I am thankful for the moon over the sugarcane fields and the moorhens in the swamps. I am thankful for the trees and the creepers. I am thankful for the people by the river, and their stories. And I am thankful for the rain over the river. When there is so much to be thankful for, tributes are in order. This, here, is an attempt at that, too.
My reuse of the title Where do we come from? isn't meant to echo the spiritual preoccupation evident in its original use by Gauguin. Since I have already borrowed other parts of the same title before (in What are we? and Where are we going?), it simply seemed apt to use the remaining part. It must be therefore apparent that when I say “Where do we come from?”, I only mean to say “Where I come from”.
Cochin, December 2021