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The New Indian Express

N.N. Rimzon, Mother at the Forest, 2009

Celebrated painter-sculptor N.N. Rimzon strongly believes that though there are schools to analyse and teach art, there is no place to teach one how to create one. It takes years of meditation for an artist to develop his own line of thought, expression, philosophy and signature. And hailing from a remote village Kakkoor in Kerala, with no remote connection with the world of arts, 65-year-old Rimzon found his expressions through years of passionate perseverance.

Whether it's the imposing sculpture Big Maa -- a mammoth phallus-like structure with multiple breasts melding male and female principles, the stoic yet serene bronze figure of the Devotee, or Blood Rain depicting the recent political clashes in his state that claimed young lives, Rimzon's work has always explored the interplay between the three worlds of heaven, earth and the collective consciousness with a sense of contemporaneity to express the current state of affairs. Yet, each of his works is so lucid that one doesn't require any orientation towards arts to engage with them.

The soft-spoken Rimzon was in Kolkata on a short visit as one of the final jury members of the fourth edition of CIMA Awards Show that goes on display from tomorrow. Rimzon, along with his co-jury members has painstakingly gone through 180 artworks by emerging artists across the country to select the winners, and he couldn't be happier to see the range of deep meaningful work. “While selecting the winners, we put a lot of thrust on how successfully has the artist been able to reflect the society and what’s happening around him through his or her work, besides how deftly he or she has been able to handle the materials and visualize the thoughts in actual scale,” he tells.

Speaking about scales of work, Rimzon himself loves playing around with a sense of space and proportion of scales in his sculptures which are almost always life-size so that they can interact and communicate directly with the audience. Rimzon also believes that the narrative of Indian artists is also distinct from the rest of the world since our country is fragmented by religions and caste that has a profound impact on their thought processes. “Also, our previous generation of artists was more preoccupied with projecting Indian culture and sensibilities, thereby ignoring contemporary issues. We have seen a paradigm shift now, with artists finding a language to reflect life experiences in a more poetic manner,” he adds.

Rimzon captures his thoughts through more fluid and modern materials apart from the age-old mediums like stone, bronze and wood. “Previously, creating something permanent and damage-proof was vital but for many of us now, permanency of our work lies in the idea and not the materials used. I love playing around the metaphoric quality of any material since each object has its own history and memory attached to it and has a deep association with life. For instance, when you displace or transform water into an icon or image it will become more symbolic and communicate with you in a different way than its utilitarian purpose. And it’s true of any object, be it any furniture or a pair of shoes, once changed into icons, they start revealing a different character, history and some association with memory, opening up a new vision,” he explains.

Rimzon -- whose family discovered his talent for art when as a four-year-old child he created innovative toys out of clay, wood and other materials -- believes that the world of arts has changed significantly since the times when he started out in the 70s. But he also feels the pandemic has stifled art globally. “We all did a lot of digital exhibitions, but personally, I feel that online exhibitions make things look tiny and one doesn’t really get to experience the material quality or scale of the exhibited works. Hence it’s not as satisfying as a physical exhibition,” he reflects.

With his last solo exhibition, The Round Ocean and the Living Death, having been held two years back at Delhi’s Talwar Gallery, Rimzon is now busy doing preliminary paper sketches for his sculptures that will also dwell on contemporary times. “One of the biggest problems that an artist confronts is finding his own voice. There have been so many times that my experiments didn’t work out the way I wanted them to be. I still think and study a lot which helps keep the artist in me alive,” says Rimzon.

-Sharmistha Ghosal