Born in 1935 in Kerala, A. Ramachandran graduated with a degree in Malayalam Literature from Kerala University before pursuing a Diploma in Fine Arts and Crafts from Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University at Santiniketan. Deeply influenced by Nandalal Bose, Ramachandran makes a strong case for Indian aesthetics and for the use of classical Indian images to articulate an ideological position. The painter converted to using archetypal Indian imagery only after years of painting in the modernist vein. Deeply influenced by the prevalent socio-political situation in Kerala, his early works represented oppression, violence, war. Human figures were dismembered, most of them headless. Several aspects of Indian classical art have been integrated into his art, including compound motifs and imagery, decorative elements along with the exuberance of forms and colours.
He admits that he has been inspired by and extensively used Kerala murals, Nathadwara paintings and Ajanta murals in his works. A decorative element much like the murals is observed in many of his paintings. However, in most of his works, the decorative element does not stand out; it is intrinsic, built into his figures’ clothes and jewellery as a part of the overall design. Ramachandran believes that his monumental painting ‘Yayati’ was one of the landmarks in his growth as an artist, because it allowed him to incorporate elements of classical proportions and postures in his work. Executed as a narrative, it compelled Ramachandran to use Indian mythological imagery in a contemporary form. Ramachandran has had several solo shows, some of which include ‘Recent Works’ at Grosvenor Vadehra, London, in 2008; ‘Face to Face: Art Practice of A Ramachandran’ at the Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai and New York, in 2007-08; and ‘Illustrations of Gaudi’s Ocean’ at Nami Island, South Korea, in 2005. Three retrospective exhibitions of his work have been organized by Vadehra Art Gallery in 2004; by the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi, in 2003; and by Kumar Gallery at Art Heritage, New Delhi, and Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 1983.
Ramachandran has also participated in several group shows including ‘Progressive to Altermodern’ at Grosvenor Gallery, London, in 2009; ‘From Everyday To The Imagined: Modern Indian Art’ at the Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, and the Museum of Art, Seoul, in 2007-08; the ‘Festival of India’ at Coups de Coeur, Geneva, in 1987; the Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil, in 1979; the Menton Biennale, France, in 1974; and the New Delhi Triennale, India, in 1968. Ramachandran was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2005 and the Raja Ravi Verma Puraskar by the Government of Kerala in 2003. The artist lives and works in New Delhi and Kochi.