A self-taught artist, A.V. Ilango made his debut in 1973 on completing his Masters in Mathematics at the Bangalore University.
Inspired by his childhood memories, he set off with a colourful palette.
From seven to sixteen years, he had spent his childhood in Gobichettipalayam, a market town in the hinterland of Tamil Nadu. It is situated in picturesque plains richly covered with paddy fields and coconut groves with the canal meandering lazily across the fields and the hazy blue mountains frame the backdrop. In the town, the white-washed houses with red-tiled roofs line the narrow streets.
Everyday life is orchestrated with agricultural activities, trade and also religious celebrations. Thus the harvest, fairs and festivals resound with folk songs, music and dances. People sing and dance, and patiently queue before the shrines. All their movements are tuned to the drumbeat and tinkling ankle bells. Clad in ochre dhotis, musicians and dancers enliven the crowd with leaps and swirls in ecstasy. The bright costumes, pulsating music, bellowing traders, echoing loud speakers… The artist vividly recalls those scenes on his canvas.
Married at 27 years, he migrated with his family from Bangalore to Madurai, the ancient seat of Dravidian culture. The architectural and sculptural splendors of Madurai temples fascinated him. He sketched in the Meenakshi temple to execute paintings in the pointillist style with monochrome tones highlighting granite texture. Nataraja, Meenakshi Kalyanam and Rathi were inspired by the elegance of medieval classical sculpture. The indelible impressions of festivals, fairs were rendered with bold impastos. The contrast of the ethnic colours accentuated the linear quality on his oil paintings – Karagam, Kavadi, Oyilattam to name a few of that early Utsav series.
In 1979, once again moving to Madras in the pursuit of his artistic career, he found this big city hardly inspiring. It is the modern cultural and industrial centre. The noise, traffic jams, pollution, squalor and stench of this urban environment resulted in the dismal tones of his oil paintings titled Aggression, Agony, Injustice, Ruins, Desert, Melancholy, etc. Willingly to emerge out of that depressive phase, he changed his subject to create the Rhythm 85 collection in joyous tones. At the end of the eighties, A. V. Ilango allowed the urban influences to gradually evoke vivid figurations of artisans, workers, beggars harmonized with auto-rickshaws, buses, lorries, cycles. Man, woman or a group of people at work, rest or in celebration, as subject of study, he preferred to depict the human form elegant, tanned in the bright Indian sun, robust in dhoti and sari. The female head and torso were rendered in rotund forms. Inspired from the marapachi doll (brown wooden doll) and the giant kaval deivam (terracotta village guardians), Ilango conceived his human forms to arrive at harmonious compositions. Light and dark tones were interlaced with subtle and bold lines. In the course of three decades, the residual forms, structural lines and monologous or analogous or complementary colour schemes culminated in his recent Women series