Asokan Nanniyode is an Indian Visionary Artist, born in Trivandrum, Kerala. He grew up playfully, graced with the bounty of nature, showing interest in arts from the tender age of three. After completing his formal education he was admitted at Swami Ascharyacharya’s (Jean Letschert a student of Rene Magritte) ashram Amritabindu, a forest hermitage dedicated to arts as a spiritual discipline. After having spent many years learning arts and meditation under his Guru, Asokan traveled abroad. His paintings were exhibited in London, France, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia, Mauritius and India.
Contact with western life made Asokan change back to the spiritual path, this time with a more profound life experience. Asokan gave his brushes and paints away and left for meditation at the Himalayas. A few years later an intuition led him to Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, where he now permanently resides. Ramana Maharshi’s vision and teachings influence Asokan Nanniyode’s life and art deeply.
Asokan says “Our mind is formed of our vasanas and purva vasanas (inborn vasanas from previous lives.) It is the mind that creates the universe and in which we know the world. The perception of the body is also knowledge like this. The body depends on this knowledge. When consciousness touches the brain, there are vibrations formed called thoughts. The universe exists in this illusion, these thoughts. Self-Knowledge is the only Truth, unsupported by the intellect. Viewed from this background, my new paintings have no clear body structure. The body is translucent, formed out of leaves, branches and flowers. The body is only an imagination. When the mind is stilled, we receive the right knowledge (the Absolute). Knowledge is not dependent on the mind, awareness is real knowledge, our true Self. The intellect does not function in sleep. But even during sleep there is a witness within us. It does not depend on the body, as our true Self, it is interdependent. It is on the basis of this kind of vision that my paintings are formed.’’
After completing his cave meditation in Tiruvannamalai, Asokan began to paint his divine visions and meditations. A gallery has been opened by his Guru in 2016 which allows the visitors to take part of that, their inner journey.
With my spiritual guru
Jean Letschert – Swami, Aschary acharya
For those who thought the idea of nature was a matter of science, or a “green” concern, painter Asokan, heir of two major schools : the European surrealist movement by René Magritte and Jean Letschert, and the South Indian tantric school, may open a new door in both figurative art and abstract art. No end to cross; deepening ties, looking to infinity but scaled to human pace, his exploration leads to kingdoms, the vegetal and mineral ones mostly, depicting any bloom, petal by petal, vein after vein, while a bare anthropomorphic entity uncovers, fresh in every vision. These past years, Asokan has been working on the project of “Goddesses”, after a period where his production was mostly influenced by surrealism, his brush affixing the seal of sanctity on canvas. An orderly creative process into fabulous holy lands, an escalation and elevation finally leads to new plans. It is the second period.
As feminine creatures get loose in the foreground, the moment they finally appear within sight, a shift is slightly created by an optical trick. His painting technique works perfectly to that end. The impressive hieratic sense of the figure being modelled as well into some kind of abandonment and serenity; one never knows what is more compelling, stone or breeze? Deities do not stop their graphic line tension, between the origin from where the painter extracted them, and the foreground where they keep being “sent back” as a figure. A bond full of energy, meant for contemplation and mental activity. This process, peculiar to the culture of South India is certainly foreign in European countries as a system, for such exploration is derived and applied to contemporary art.
No flesh for deities, in the sense that Renoir has portrayed this organic material, subjective and social vitality, its intoxicative promise. Most of the time Asokan abstracts flesh, he substitutes the contour and infuses it with a vital network fed by colour partitions, and light. Though rendering Beauty may be terrifying: the ageless woman and still so fragile (Goddess 20), holding a rose in her hand and kissing its petals, is one steeped in naturalness. At the same time, sign of death and yet reconstructed by the roots up, she is giving birth to this world, as Beckett says, “death is dead because time is dead”. Besides, the artist has set up his easel in a nature-drenched tropical light rich in nuances, with golden overtones and clear blue sky in continuation with the surrealist “legacy”, which may look familiar at that point to European and Indian eyes.