SG Vasudev, one of the most prolific proponents of ‘indigenous modernism’ or ‘Indian modernism’ has always worked across multiple mediums simultaneously, from oil on canvas and ink on paper to copper relief and silk tapestries. This perhaps explains why, over his long career of five decades, his creations seamlessly flow from one to the other. The Vriksha has been central to Vasudev’s artistic vision. “It was a powerful concept that has been visualized in almost every other culture that you can think of, in some way or another. Even an artist like Mondrian was inspired by looking at the branches of a tree… To me it symbolizes sexuality, fertility, procreation, as well as our links with our past, its myths and legends, the branches spreading out into the future,” says Vasudev. Like the tree he envisions, his own art appears linked irrevocably to the past, rooted in ideas already realised, even as it looks ahead towards the future, growing further in new directions. When looking at his work chronologically, therefore, one notices that Vasudev’s themes often spill into one another and then reappear again like old refrains. The Vriksha melds into the Earthscapes; while the Maithuna and the Theatre of Life converge at some point. This merging of images and renewal of ideas give his work both freshness and familiarity. When you see a new Vasudev work, you recognise a familiar motif and yet there is always something new and different that he brings to it.
Over the years, Vasudev has employed a variety of stylistic techniques but believes that all of his works are connected by the line – an element that he perhaps learned to prize due to his time at the Government School of Arts and Crafts, Chennai under the tutelage of KCS Paniker. He notes: “I never consciously use colour. The painting dictates the particular mood or texture that I might want to convey at that moment.”