Born in Kottayam, Kerala in 1960, Babu Xavier is a self-taught artist who rejected a traditional academic art education to identify and establish a creative space of his own. It was by chance that Babu ran into the famous artist Jayapal Panicker, also originally from Kerala. Panicker left such a lasting impression on Babu, that he withdrew from college in his final year to join him at the Cholamandal Art Colony in Madras and work under his guidance for a while. Perhaps it is this decision to keep away from the academic training that has enabled Babu to approach art without any pre-condition and explore a world of politically sensitive images and place them in a surreal space.
His canvases are brought alive with vivid colours and fantastic creatures. His brushes paint on full-blooded reds, vibrant yellows and sparkling blues and greens, creating nearly human figures with some sexual undertones in watercolours that seem to radiate light almost like a prism.
When it comes to his work, he is quite firm about his intentions. “I don`t make art to decorate houses and match people’s walls. There are a lot of contradiction in my paintings, which can be very disturbing. If I talk about sexuality, there is also death on the same canvas. Not everyone will like nor understand my art work; they are not meant to.” In his work today, we see, as the artist intends, a deeper meaning. The fantastic figures represent the powerful and lucid ideas Xavier has. Just turning away from his paintings, one glances at the signature, and notices a small set of lines pencilled next to it – a barcode. “I draw barcodes on all my paintings…. It reflects contemporary life and shows consumerist trends in 2002, when markets rule our lives.”
Babu has more than 30 solo exhibitions and numerous group shows to his credit, and his works form part of individual and institutional collections both in India and abroad. An artist who has a strong root in the cultural and literary mindscape of Kerala, Babu Xavier has also done several illustrations for works of fiction. His works are also regularly included in domestic and international auctions of Indian art, including most recently at Sotheby’s New York (2007, 2006).
Babu lives and works in Kovalam, Kerala.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
- ‘Tarot Card Series’, Art Chamber Gallery, Calangute, Goa (2009)
- ‘Crimson Rhapsody’ Art Musings, Mumbai (2006)
- Kashi Art Gallery, Cochin (2005, 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998)
- Pundole Gallery, Mumbai (2002, 1999, 1991, 1985)
- Apparao Gallery, Chennai (1999)
- Holstebro Bibliotec, Denmark (1998)
- Lunenburg University, Germany (1997)
- Gallerie Varia, Basel, Switzerland (1994)
- Zenit, Copenhagen, Denmark (1991)
- Gammelgaard Art Centre, Denmark (1991).