Art News & Views

Musings from Chennai



Kasa Vinay Kumar

If one tries to gauge the medium most preferred by artists in Chennai depending on the occupancy of the studios in the Regional Centre, Lalit Kala Akademi in Chennai then one might conclude that print-making and painting are on opposite sides of the popularity scale. However working from the graphic studio at the Lalit Kala Akademi, artist Kasa Vinay Kumar creates works which one could say counter the disparateness between the two mediums.

A graduate from the College of Fine Arts, Chennai, Kasa Vinay Kumar's initial works were inspired by tribal life. His works also looked at the concept of the five elements in association with the physical relationship between man and woman. However his current series of works engage with the concept of money and the way it impacts mundane life in innumerable ways. He especially looks at the role that money plays in human relationships since relationships are also nurtured for their being an investment in times of need. He likens his father to an ATM with himself being the card that ultimately makes him gain currency (financial and emotional). The concept of money being common to different facets of life can be likened to the way Vinay Kumar perceives the world around him- from the point of the self. In his Self Overlapping series he places himself as the protagonist in different situations, wherein he becomes the rock-star, cinematographer or the celebrity represented.

Just as the self gets repeatedly presented in his works, the motifs that he uses such as postal stamps, currency notes and seal marks are characterised by repetition. These techniques and methods ultimately return to the idea of currency either directly or through more circuitous ways. Postage stamps not only symbolise money since it is the result of a monetary transaction but is also linked to the celebrity and personality cults that is fuelled by money. In terms of technique also, Vinay Kumar repeatedly works on the image several times. While his earlier works made use of blind impressions of ATM cards, colour photocopies, and so on, his recent works use a slightly different method. Vinay Kumar begins by drawing on the computer using software like Photoshop. The print out of this is traced onto paper and then colour is added to it. However the colour is added in such a way that the tracing marks remain. Akin to the way he brings in the feel of a printed medium with possibility of having multiple copies using a hand done process, he inverts the idea of what can be presented by using the tracing marks, which are normally masked by colour, to make up the image;. But what is more interesting is that his works appear different depending on the process through which they are viewed. His works when viewed through an electronic medium or print look like works without any painting involved. However when viewed in person the delicate feel of watercolour becomes apparent. This variable quality present in his work could be read as an analogy for the way in which currency masks and presents itself in different avatars.

D. Dhasan

Making art of waste materials has a long tradition which gestures towards eco-friendliness, economic sustainability as well as finding beauty in 'ugliness'. Chennai based artist D.Dhasan's works fall into the last category. Using discarded material, Dhasan not only tries to present the 'art' that can be found in the life around but also uses this art to inturn evoke memories of experiences in life. This ability to engage with the everyday aspect of life perhaps comes from his background as a signboard artist whose works would have been perceived not just as advertisements but also in some cases as 'art' by the  public.

Dhasan, who since 2006 has stopped painting signboards following the advent of the vinyl culture, is most well known in Chennai for his water lilies series painted in an impressionistic style. Interestingly, the sober muted tones of the water lily series are in direct contrast to the signboard style that is known for its bright colours and spontaneous strokes. However, in his recent works, one can perhaps detect memories of the signboard painting style. In his recent untitled series of works, he tears paper from magazines and rolls them together to form hollow cylindrical forms, sticks drinking straws splattered with paint in random arrangements, touches up wood shavings with paint and arranges them and brings together elastic bands in a kaleidoscopic arrangement. Not only are these materials closely related to advertising, packing and consuming of objects but the tonal similarity in their arrangement and the often systematic method of placing them reminds one of visions that one sees while visiting shops; of seeing bundles of textile arranged in a clothes shop, of the corrugated shutters for shops, of bangle stacks and so on. Even a black and white work consisting of waste cloth arranged to form abstract patterns was inspired by the artist's visit to the meat shop where he saw intestines hanging. While one might see in Dhasan's work resonances of other Chennai artistss like N.Ramachandran and Ganesh Selvaraj who use newspaper, magazines and found objects to create constructed surfaces, it is possible to read in Dhasan's works an interesting play on time. Dhasan's works are spontaneous responses triggered by some specific experience in the world which is then captured quickly in his work. However the works make the viewer pause and ponder over them and over a period of time register different responses to the forms.

Moving between a naturalistic style of painting landscapes, an impressionistic capturing of waterlilies, an abstract vocabulary inspired by the peeling and flaking wall surfaces (Wallscape series) and now a collaged arrangement of objects, it may appear that there is a great divergence of styles in Dhasan's works. But ultimately all his works are concerned with the surface and its construction and through that the memories they can evoke.

Vaishnavi Ramanathan 


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