'Swaminathan’s artistic ambition was to establish a continuum between folk, tribal, and urban contemporary art. Questioning the notion that Modernisum developed from an encounter with the West, he sought to redefine contemporary practice by taking into account the philosophical underpinnings of Indian Art. A truly Indian art could only develop, he felt, by overcoming the divide between art and craft.' (Amrita Jhaveri, A Guide to 101 Modern and Contemporary Indian Artists, 2005, p. 93).
He argued that in opposition to the Western approach, traditional Indian paintings were never meant to represent reality in the naturalistic objective sense. Likewise his landscapes become metaphors or pictorial tools for the understanding of the Indian notion of Maya, the illusory nature of the manifest world.
In the bird, the mountain, the tree, the reflection series he melts together aspects of the indigenous aesthetic mentioned above including miniature paintings with their simple compositions and forms coupled with a bold use of color. Isana Murthy states, 'Swami’s greater contribution was in giving Indian sources a contemporary validity and visual identity. His use of flat colours and spaces in his early work is reminiscent of the Indian miniature and I cannot recall anyone before Swami using the vivid Indian yellow in the manner he did.'
This work straddles the boundaries between abstraction and naturalism; representing the mountains and reflections in symmetry paired with a surreal illusion of levitating above the verdant tree and field below. Underlying Swaminathan’s work is a deeply spiritual reverence for the unrealized universe that is revealed only through nature, in large works such as this one this reverence is clear.
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