They are all -pervading - the triangular configurations arrayed centrally in neat little rows, emerging out of the recesses of mysterious color fields; on other occasions, disbanding and edging energetically towards the periphery of the picture space, almost yearning to spill out. Triangular and pyramidal forms as symbols are integral to religious worship the world over and embody multiple meanings and connotations; such as the cosmos, trinity and spiritual energy. In Anant Nikam’s recent body of abstracts, the triangles are emblems, like numerous other signs and symbols, fleshed out from a tradition that has preoccupied the artist intensely in his career spanning over two decades. The dusty landscape of the hinterland of Maharashtra where Nikam grew up, dotted with innumerable little shrines and fraught with a plethora of myths and folklore, remain distinctly etched in his mind. Boyhood memories and associations with conventions, sharp and piquant to this day, continue to guide his sensibilities. His canvases are a painter’s responses to rituals of faith inextricably linked with the cycle of birth and death, marriage and child bearing, well being and illness. The points of reference are as diverse as the talismans and sacred threads tagged onto wayside shrines or dargas- tokens of wish fulfillment or mannat, arrangements of kumkum smeared pebbles in the satvai pooja ritual performed for the newborn to ward off evil spirits or intricate cosmographical diagrams such as the Sri Yantra.
Nikam’s paintings are as ambiguous and enigmatic as the beliefs they codify. The self imposed austerity of the formal language serves as a perfect foil to his quest for the mysteries of the universe. The restrained palette of deep browns, soot grays, elevating tangerines, and somber ochres, is handled with consummate ease and an extensive conversance with his medium. The artist attributes the intuitive understanding of surfaces to his prolific outputs as a printmaker. Printmaking techniques such as etching
entails wiping of metal plates which enhances skill of handling color areas. Not unlike graphic prints, Nikam’s canvases have multi-layered surfaces with an intriguing play of textures, soft blurred images and defined contours, sudden depths and impulsive highlighted areas. Intense and spiritual, the meditative spaces generate cosmic energy. They oscillate between the material and the metaphysical realms. There is a resonance, the seeking of benediction, the reverberating sound of hymns and chants, the tactility of the soot lined walls of the sanctum and reassurance of the flickering lights of earthen diyas, and above all, a premise for contemplation.
Dr. Manisha Patil
Artist and Art Historian