Vasudevan Akkitham’s painterly practice can be placed firmly in the figurative-narrative tradition of the Baroda School. Stylistically, his works manifest the influence of pre-modern Indian painting traditions and the School of London figurative painters of the 1980s – Pierre Bonnard, Max Beckmann, Balthus, Philip Guston, Louise Bourgeois, etc. Human figures and animals appear in his canvases, framed against the backdrop of interior spaces, or natural landscapes which are taken from memory. While his imagery is simple, there is a mysteriousness inherent in the way the elements are distributed, and appear displaced from their traditional milieu. The result is an ambiguous narrative that hints at larger concerns about the relationship of man and nature, society and identity, etc. For all their seemingly social ‘content’, however, the minutiae of reality is of less importance in Akkitham’s works, than the use of poetic infusion and ‘the attempt to transport feeling’. ‘The presence of the unseen vision is as important as what is painted,’ he has said.
Akkitham was born in 1958 in Kerala, the son of acclaimed Malayali poet Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri, and studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University of Baroda, where the eminent painter Gulammohamed Sheikh was his teacher, followed by a stint at the Royal College of Art, London. Vasudevan himself spent his entire life in academia – he joined his alma mater as a lecturer in the painting department in 1990 and retired as head of the department in 2021.