Ratheesh T.’s paintings bear witness to the enduring mystery of human communication. The artist has the gift of rendering everyday meetings, conversations, and interactions as tableaux, so subtly dramatized that they capture our attention yet do not tip over into theatre, leaving us guessing as to the exact significance of the event. Each painting is alive with expressive richness and narrative possibilities; each holds a secret close to its chest, yet approaches the world with the heightened intensity of candour.
In a dramatic self-portrait, the artist-persona faces his viewers naked, divested of all his clothes: a delightfully profane ascetic who seems to have renounced the claims and demands of the social world. Another work, a tender double portrait of the artist-persona and his daughter, offers us the portrait of a third subject: the pond outside Ratheesh’s home in Trivandrum, a shimmer of water, flowers, and the reflections of a house. And consider the painting that depicts the artist-persona attempting to regain control of a kitchen that has been overrun by pigeons: while some of them are pecking at crumbs on the floor, he stands on a patch of grilled light, turning to look at a pigeon that has just flown in through the window. In a wonderfully eccentric fashion, this work riffs on the archetypal scene of the Annunciation: the artist is no Virgin, of course, and yet the Angel-bird brings him momentous news, to which he must attend. Perhaps it has to do with the occupational hazards of balancing his love for a well-managed domestic interior and his passion for nature’s exuberance, in a culture and a climate that encourage the blurring of the line separating them. Perhaps the bird’s wing-beat will echo as a storm in the house that is the artist’s heart.
[Excerpted from the essay by Ranjit Hoskote that accompanies the exhibition]