12.10.22 to 15.11.22

A Pastoral Eulogy

Premjish Achari


Landscapes recur as a surplus of excess in the paintings of Prasad KP. Our sight cannot escape the abundance of lush vegetation that sprawls on the surface, carefully detailed by the meticulous artistic craft of Prasad. The artist imagines a pastoral time, the onlooker’s attention cannot waiver, as there are hidden characters lurking in these lush landscapes to be discovered. Concealed carefully within the profuse exotic flora, an idyllic charm of folklore and rural life is minutely placed, through various human figures. At that moment when our eyes catch hold of these activities, the real-world dawns upon us. The rustic beauty of its everyday actions is sharply focused, anchoring itself in the deep forest. Prasad’s own engagement with the life of village plays an important role in the composition of these images. Back in Kerala where he hails from, Prasad is surrounded by the immensity of natural beauty. He recreates that world to represent the harmony of life in such a specific context. His recent paintings in this exhibition are an ode to the pastoral life, a tribute to the depth of its vast expanse, an exploration of the life cycles within the forest and a relook at the vanishing presence of the characters from the folk tradition and literature. Together they celebrate the existence of beautiful landscapes so passionately, that it becomes difficult to overlook the meticulous quality of the painterly surface created through watercolours. Such keen attention to detailing, fervent devotion to the medium and the subtlety of the images marks Prasad as one of the exceptional painters of his generation.

The conceptual possibilities and also the expanded ways in which its used, allows us to categorise Prasad’s work as a splendid eulogy to the pastoral. As a literary trope it has been mainly associated with poetic tributes on shepherds and green pastures. Nevertheless, the multiple narratives that emerged out of it, they myriad forms, characters and narratives that were written about expands the purview of the category from simply relating it to the life of a shepherd. For this exhibition and this introduction, I would like to rely upon the scholarly observations that the pastoral is also a retreat to an innocent landscape that is unaffected by the devastations of modernity. Prasad’s paintings are a eulogy to the pictorial pastoral, an invite to a seemingly frozen time, with visible changes and encroachments appearing at sporadic locations. The hope in the harmony and the mutuality of this archaic setting is affirmed through the painstaking detailing of the flora, the changing colours of the topography and the perspective through which he composes. These aspects stand out in his paintings. Unlike an aerial perspective, instead of a bird’s eye view what Prasad offers us is a different elevation similar to the Chinese landscape paintings where the tiers are rising towards the sky. The artist does not restrict the landscapes. They appear to spill out of his own restrictions of frames and edges like a chimera that spreads everywhere. Instead of spreading maladies, the mutating growth stretches out resplendent hope in the romantic beauty of a life inside the forest. A true romantic, Prasad forces us to see the possibilities in the pastoral when the world is reeling under an ecological disaster. The forest stands out as a metaphor for an alternative system against the destructions of modern civilisation, countering the damnation of the material world and offering an abode to embrace a different rhythm of life.


A crucial factor in Prasad’s oeuvre is the centrality of nature. In this solo exhibition Prasad again reassembles the configurations of the conceptual character of ecology, the visual framing of landscape and clearly attributes a specific context to it that is rooted in Kerala. Undoubtedly Prasad invites us to partake in the enigma and the mystery of the pastoral. In his paintings the pastoral extends beyond just representing a certain type of life. Instead, it clearly sets up a contrasting visuality between the idyllic and the machinic, the modern and the pastoral and the changing versus the timelessness. They flourish oblivious to the large-scale deforestation happening around us across the world. It is fictional and out of place, yet it can be made real. He invites the viewer to materialise this beautiful reality around them, witness the exquisiteness of nature and interact with them through affectation.


Prasad frames the pastoral in a static space and time, and contrast it with the diverse characters who belong to different time periods. Nevertheless, there is a tradition to follow, rural gods to appease, and a way of life to sustain. That is the unchanging rule of this place. Another possibility these images offer is the absence of the acquisitive behaviour. Characters inhabiting the landscapes exist within, they do not own the property. Prasad obfuscates the individual conception of property and emphasise on the collective responsibility of belonging together within the forest. Such practices are obscured and what remains is the communal world of the pastoral. The pastoral is resurrected repeatedly in all the images to concretise this collective imagination. It exists in various forms as an escape for all of us. To retreat from an uncertain and changing world, to seek shelter and to replenish life in a different order. Prasad inverts the dominant logic of the material realities and desires around us. Despite its hegemony and significance, there exists a possibility to anchor life in the expanse of a counter system of refuge. What all it comes down to is also a crucial question about whether art can offer an alternative to our existing dilemmas and problems. Prasad’s works astoundingly depict that such a powerful possibility to reimagine alternatives exist and even with romantic fervour. He does so with innocence, not following the conditions of logic and rationality but pure romantic dedication to the pastoral. It becomes a cultural tool to embrace the nostalgic, the enigma of the forest, and the idyllic vision of the landscapes to clearly demarcate the urban complexity where the art interiorises and appropriates nature.