Ram Kumar's Varanasi series marks a significant shift in his work, from his post-Paris figurative phase to the non-figurative world of abstraction. The artist's choice of the sacred city of Varanasi as the catalyst and inspiration for this move to abstractions is not altogether surprising. Hindus believe that death or cremation in this holy city leads to liberation rather than rebirth in another form and in some ways these sentiments are reflected in the transition in Ram Kumar’s work from figuration to abstract ion. In the words of the artist, 'sitting on the steps of the Manikarnika Ghat, watching the dead bodies some brought from distant villages in boats, waiting for their turn for liberation, I almost felt the disappearing boundary line between life and death.' (Ram Kumar: A Journey Within, Vadehra Art Gallery, 1996).
The dramatic intensity of his early figurative paintings is retained in these canvases, but the works executed in soft and silvery gray, blue and yellow tones attain a kind of austere brilliance, a certain ascetic purity. 'Every sight was like a new composition, a still life artistically organised to be interpreted in colours. It was not merely outward appearances which were fascinating but they were vibrant with an inner life of their own, very deep and profound, which left an everlasting impression on my artistic sensibility. I could feel a new visual language emerging from the depths of an experience.' (ibid.)
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