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About A.V. Ilango


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About A.V. Ilango

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.

The last decade saw his palette mellow.

The decorative elements disappeared.

Minimalist compositions were etched in the sublime harmony of black and white positive and negative spaces space and form.

Some works have caught the dramatic moment of an action. Whereas in others, forms merge into the space. The artist opines that his way of conceptualizing, as a mathematician, has contributed a lot to his artistic research. He values the linear quality in his oeuvre, and the development of a concept and the motif. Each theme evolves in such a way that the presentation is distinguished from period to period or at the same time.

Besides human figure, the artist has been studying for the past few years, the most familiar animals of the Indians. According to him, cows and bulls form the very idiom of primitive, folk and classical arts of India. The Indian species which inspire him are not robust, forming an angular structure. The horns are highlighted. Alone or in herd they are seen everywhere, in the countryside as well as in the metropolis. This series Bull and Beyond evoke meditative poses of bovine creatures rendered in earthy hues.

Besides human figure, the artist has been studying for the past few years, the most familiar animals of the Indians. According to him, cows and bulls form the very idiom of primitive, folk and classical arts of India. The Indian species which inspire him are not robust, forming an angular structure. The horns are highlighted. Alone or in herd they are seen everywhere, in the countryside as well as in the metropolis. This series Bull and Beyond evoke meditative poses of bovine creatures rendered in earthy hues.

Now Ilango goes beyond the bull which is the mascot of Lord Shiva, called Nandhi. In hindu philosophy, the bull symbolizes the human prowess. In everyday life, it is used as beast of burden and for transport, sport, manure, hide, meat and milk. Many sketches and paintings bring out the subtle harmony in these compositions.

“I am fascinated by the form on the space.
I go with them on a voyage of discovery
to understand their complexity and simplicity.
Finally, I see things existing
in the purest of forms.
Space and form are interwoven,
merged into one another,
until the original form becomes
intangible, imperceptible, sublime…”

A. V. Ilango

What a transition

from vibrant hues to mellowed tones,

from robust joy to tranquil meditation,

from ecstatic ?lan to static energy,

from human figures to bovine forms.

Chennai, a mutating metropolis did not fail to impress upon him. Commuting from Valasaravakkam, a southern suburb to the heart of the city, Central Station, the artist perceived, from his windshield, the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest.

In the Chennai Series, the idioms of his animated subject of study are geometric forms with distinct colour codes: the yellow and black auto-rickshaw, the blue and yellow water tankers, black swirls for bicycles, bluish green MTC buses, the yellow and red cycle-rickshaws, overflowing garbage bins. The composition of these elements, in small format, emanate the kinetic harmony of people or rather vehicles, fighting for road space or right to move.


Pandian Hotel, Madurai
1980 & 84
Alliance Franзaise of Madras
Allliance Franзaise of Bangalore
Rhythm 85, C.P. Art Centre, Madras
1986 & 88
Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay
1989 & 91
Grindlays Art Gallery, Madras
Chola Art Gallery, Madras
Rhythm 94, British Council Division, Madras
The Bhownagree Gallery, The Commonwealth Institute, London
Grindlays Art Gallery, New Delhi
Silapathikaram - Manimekalai,
British Council Division and The Book Point, Madras
The Chennai Series, Landmark, Madras
Bull and Beyond, Alliance Française of Madras
Dauphin Gallery, Singapore
Jamaat Gallery, Bombay
Utsav, Lakshana Art Gallery, Hyderabad
Stree Mayam, Jamaat Gallery, Mumbai
Utsav 2002, Lakshana Art Gallery, Bangalore
Line, Space, Rhythm by the Bullukian Foundation, Lyons France
Chennai Series by the British Council Division, The Forum Gallery, Chennai
Women Series, Chitrakala Parishath, by The Forum Art Gallery, Bangalore
Women Series, The Forum Art Gallery, Chennai.
Hotel Lyon Est , Lyons, France
Utsav, Sutra Dance Theatre, Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia
Under the Spell, Paintings on Odissi dance at Istana Budaya
(National Theatre) Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Under the Spell, the Forum Art Gallery, Chennai
Exhibition at the Indian Consulate General, New York,USA
Utsav, Hotel Windsor Manor, Bangalore
Utsav, San Francisco, USA
Utsav , Jamaat Gallery , Mumbai
Second Reincarnation , Sutra Dance Theatre, Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia
The Bovine Principle , Art Smart gallery, Trivendrum
The Bovine Principle , Forum Art Gallery Chennai
Introspection , Tamarind Art council, New york.
Utsav 2008 Art space The Gallery, KL, Malaysia
Utsav 2010 Forum Art Gallery, Chennai


Alliance Française of Madras
Russian Cultural Centre, Madras
Alliance Franзaise of Bangalore
Sakshi Art Gallery, Madras
The Gallery, Madras
1992 & 94
Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore
Madras-An Emotion – An Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art ,
Values Art Foundation, Chennai
Urban Signals and Shifting Images IV,
Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Bombay
Inaugural Show, The Forum Art Gallery, Chennai
Athreya Gallery , Chennai. India
Lining the Streets, Chennai Sangamam 2009, The Forum Gallery, Chennai
10 /10 Anniversary show, Jamaat Gallery, Mumbai
Art Fusion Show – Tamil Nadu & Kerala, Nehru Centre, Mumbai.
Art smart Collection, Travancore Art Gallery, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi – 1
Jamaat Gallery, Mumbai


Fifth World Tamil Conference Exhibition, Madurai
State Exhibition, Lalit Kala Akademi of Chennai, Bombay and
New Delhi
1981- 1991
State Exhibition, Tamil Nadu Ovia Nunkalai Kuzhu, Chennai
National Exhibition, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
National Kala Mela, Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai
Golden Jubilee of Independence Exhibition,
Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai
Art and Human Form, National Exhibition,
Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai
Salon International de Printemps, Lyon Fine Arts Society, Lyons
Salon de l’Ile de France, Brétigny sur Orge, France
Salon d’Automne, European Academy of Arts, Paris, France
Salon de CREAC, Lyons , France
Stirring Odissi exhibition Petronas Gallery , KL, Malaysia
Indian art show, Taipei, Taiwan
Sutra Art Gallery, International Art Expo, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Utsav, Kongu Engineering College, Perunthurai, Tamil Nadu
Ainthinai, IT Corridor, Tamil Nadu Road Development Corporation, Chennai
Nayyandi Melam & To the Shandy, TCS , Siruseri , IT Corridor, Chennai.
Police Memorial Sculpture DGP Office, Kamaraj Road, Mylapore, Chennai.


Translation of Tamil Epics Silapathikaram and Manimekalai
Orient Longman Publication, Chennai
D’une Inde à l’autre by Odile Orsini Dumoulin, Lyons
Folk Tale of Manipur Who will be Ningthou?
Tulika Publication, Chennai
Translation of Contemporary Classical Tamil Novel of Kalki Ponniyin Selvan,
Volumes I – V, Macmillan Publication, Chennai
Silapadikaram Women of substance
Set design for the theatrical production of Cleveland Cultural Alliance- USA
Chennai  not Madras, Marg Publications, Mumbai.


A. V. Ilango has been teaching drawing and painting for more than twenty five years. It was an art class till three years ago. In October 2004, he launched Ilango’s Artspace at 68 A Cathedral Road, Chennai.

This art space is not only his studio, but a place where he nurtures creativity in other minds, from little children to adults. The objective is the process of drawing and painting to express oneself in visual arts while enjoying the act of thinking and creating in an informal and personalised ambiance. Ilango says: “Art lets you be in the now.” He believes in the traditional guru-sishya pedagogy. The learning is customised, based on the aptitude, sensibility and passion of the aspirants. Ilango’s Artspace showcases the young artists who practise under his guidance in India and abroad.

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