“IMMERSED IN MEMORIES OF A BYGONE AND BELOVED TIME, THEIR WIND-SWEPT FEEL AND RESTRAINED USE OF COLOUR IS NATURAL AND BELIEVABLE — THE SPIRIT OF THESE LANDSCAPES ECHOES OUR OWN ENDLESS INNER MOVEMENT.”
Raining brushstrokes. The sky a slanting field of light, cast in the olives, grays and greens of remembered emotion. The canvas, suffused and active with longing. Water, the vertical container of a changing, speeding sky.
These are Oommen’s landscapes executed in what he calls ‘northern colors’ — dull greens, browns, sepia tones, blacks, blues and muted yellows. Unlike Oommen’s bold, joyous evocations of Kerala, these landscapes, inspired by vacations with his young daughters on the beach, are laced with a sense of loss, of deferential sadness. They are infused with the nostalgia of fatherhood, and of a vision of clouds and sea and sand as one pulls out of the rented cottage and heads back into the city. We approach them, recollecting an older, irretrievable time.
But there is no sentimentality in the many-hued yellows of a towering sky, punctuated with nameless shades of grey and brown and yellow. There is subjectivity and sublimity — a harkening back to what is most treasured. The moment stays suspended, the artist working to preserve and affirm its remembered beauty. White heads of waves blaze and break against the hard brown edge of land, providing momentary respite from the tempered, uniform haze of sky and sand. Teeming, drifting skies tell of lost, departing time and the end of two crucial ages: childhood and fatherhood. Even sand, which reflects the opaque persistence of land, possesses a certain vulnerability. It is speckled and loose, subject to the forces of wind and water.
There are never any people in Oommen’s landscapes, and when they appear, they are dwarfed and insignificant. Represented as mere strokes, they are integral to his memory of the instant. These figures are rendered in the same greenish grey of the sand, but presented in relief against the white tidal spray. They are energized and alive, endowing the canvas with life.
Tints and layered shades move over and against each other with the wavering intensity of feeling. In the articulation of changing skies and light, we recognize impermanence. The nuances coaxed out of a single, dominant colour, unearth a complex world of brushstrokes and tippled shades. They elicit elusive, fragmented feelings, feelings known to the artist and to us. Indefinable and universal, they arrive, then leave and arrive again in our hearts and minds. Oommen’s cool, distant evocations of North American seascapes are de-facto pursuits of this restlessness. Immersed in memories of a bygone and beloved time, their wind-swept feel and restrained use of colour is natural and believable — the spirit of these landscapes echoes our own endless inner movement.
In George Oommen’s landscapes, the rain falls in all colours. The insane wetness, glistening mornings, and rivers, now stunned, now set in motion, but always receiving Kerala’s quintessential light – this is the stuff of Oommen’s art.