Illusions to Ganesha’s Allusions with Babu Xavier, by Anaika Ajay

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Babu Xavier’s Malayali roots radiate through his paintings much like his vibrant pigments. He uses a melange of media through his artworks but the two prominent ones are acrylic and watercolour.The self taught artist has had no formal training in a fine arts school other than working under Jayapal Panicker at the Cholamandal Art Colony in Madras, as he believed that it would affect his raw skills and ability to be inspired by his surroundings, confining him to the norms of the art world, making him very relatable to today’s young generation of non-conformists. Ironically he criticises the same lot for their education in the fine arts pointing out his ability and willingness to take risks as compared to an art student.His favourite colour is pink, a tad bit unconventional in traditional Indian art, but it is just another idea he attributes to his lack of formal schooling, afraid that being in a fine arts school would hinder his imagination and choice of colours for his paintings.

There seems to be a sense of magical realism to his paintings that is depicted through his choice of colour and texture.If surrealism is the representation of the unconscious state or dreams using a combination of unusual images, then, one can say that Babu achieves “surrealism” through his choice of unusual pigments and fantastical creatures.Xavier jokes that perhaps it is “his zoology background making itself felt on canvas,” referring to the prevalent animal motifs in most of his works.

The most prominent animal motif is definitely the silhouette of elephants, which could be interpreted as “mother” and “child,” an almost marble-effect, doodle work that makes up the inside of the silhouette on a plain background, which apart from the evident visual contrast (between vibrant texture and plain background) also makes one see the harmony between the peaceful subjects (the elephants or any of the other creatures) and the emotions they have on the inside.His use of vibrant reds and yellows are reminiscent of the Theyyam rituals in northern Kerala where performers are adorned in bright red costumes as they dance and offer blessings.

Speaking of rituals and elephants; Babu uses similar colour schemes and techniques to portray Lord Ganesha, representing the mythical being with psychedelia and the aforementioned magical realism. This seems to allude to the hues of festivities that surround Ganesh Chaturthi, almost letting you immerse into religious celebrations much like the idol is into a water body; the sound of the dhol along with chants and melodic bell ringing, traditions and the colourfully embellished idol itself in the form of bright enchanting brush strokes, blending of colours, a sense of chaotic harmony if you will.This freeform art results in mystical depictions of animals in juxtaposing colours and textures, and abstract themes.

He has managed to accomplish all of his fame and success from the comfort of his home, saying that technology has made it easier for his work to be spread around the world.

Artwork by Babu Xavier

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