Jacob’s genealogy traces not only to his immediate family but the creative and exploratory vicinity of the artists village.  Nurtured within this artistic spring well, in communion with his interest, passion, enthusiasm and love for art and nature, Jacob has emerged as an artist in his own right.  His aspirations and enthusiasm were fuelled by his restless mind in search for a visual language that will allow him to mark a posture of difference.  He was aided in this search not only by his father, since he is a chip of the old  block and the dominant yet competitive environs of the Cholamandal where the senior artists and their families became an extended family for him, but by his incisive perceptions, experiences and an ever searching curious mind.

Jacob graduated with a master degree in Painting from the Government College of Fine Arts in 2001.  He initiated his works in a figurative mode with strong narrative element underpinning it.  He recounts those initial days after graduation, saying, “everybody here had some story to tell about their works, Douglas spoke about Oscar Wilde, and Thambi uncle [Nandagopal] gave mythological accounts of his sculptures, so I had to think of some stories and so started working with biblical themes, which I could remember from my childhood days narrated to me by my grandparents”.  His favourite motif was the fish, a form ubiquitous in Christian symbolism as well of the coast of Bay of Bengal where he resides.  These were his early days after graduation, trying to get a bearing on his art.  And with stalwarts at the village like Nandagopal, Gopinath, Douglas, Viswanathan et al, as his mentors and guides it was a matter of time before he cast away his novitiate mantle to emerge with an articulated visual language driven and conditioned by his intense individuality.

Jacob carries within his sensibility the influence of the Madras Art Movement particularly in its decorative qualities, the play of line and a predilection towards experimentation in all media since he could not escape its vitiating influence living in Cholamandal and surrounded by veterans of the movement.  The line as an element has great valence for Jacob since it is subconsciously nurtured through exposure partially to works of Ramanujam or Paniker or others.  He has a mindset that invites constant indulgence in experimentation and innovations.  

In the last decade since he started his artistic forays to establish his visual language, Jacob has journeyed through concepts, techniques, forms and colours.  His earliest works emerging in 2002, he professed his fascination with Van Gogh and particularly his collection of letters written to Theo.  Jacob in this series conflated the visual and verbal by reinventing and mimicking van Gogh’s paintings scribbled over with illegible words.  Indirectly this process bears echoes of tradition from Paniker’s Words and Symbbols Series, which Jacob had always admired so much and could not shake off easily the fascination with patriarch’s works. 

His innate restlessness found an easy catharsis in nature as a child of seasons, enjoying the breathtaking nature in all its dimensions; from flora and fauna to the whispering groves and seducing mountains behind his grandparent’s house in Tambaram in Chennai. Open wide spaces filled with trees and bushes and agricultural fields offered young Jacob enough opportunities of a sport of chasing butterflies and dragonflies, or playing with lizards picked up from fields, which became his favourite past time.  These early experiences, Jacob carries within himself as a repertoire of visual vocabulary, deeply etched in his memory and subconscious.  It emerged in his series on “Dragonflies”, [2003] signposting his advance in the upward climb of ladder of artistic development and maturity. 

 Ms. Ashrafi S. Bhagat. M.A., M. Phil., PH.D., is the Head, Department of Fine Arts, Stella Maris College, Chennai.  She is an Art Historian and writes on modern and contemporary art. 

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