Musings from Chennai
The Month that was
by Vaishnavi Ramanathan
The last one month in Chennai was dominated by the Progressives. Gallery Sumukha hosted an exhibition of prints of M.F.Husain and S.H.Raza. The figurative works of Husain proved an interesting counter point to the abstracts of Raza. But with some of Raza's works also containing figurative elements, the viewer would have understood the place of the works in the artist's oeuvre better if the year of executing the work had also been mentioned in the gallery. At the same time Apparao galleries also hosted 'Before the Canvas', an exhibition of F.N.Souza's sketches. Done during the artist's stay in Chennai in 1987, the vigorously hatched lines of the drawings captured voluptuous nudes, people working in fields etc. The drawing of women bathing in the river (or is it the sea?) and that of a deity made one wonder to what extent the drawings were inflected by the geographical and cultural climate of the city where he executed the works.
In order to promote emerging artists, from this month onwards Cholamandal Artists Village has started the 'Artist of the month' initiative. The first artist to participate in this has been Benitha Perciyal. The road that the artist has travelled, from using fibre glass and synthetic material to an aesthetic that prefers the handmade and the nature-derived to the artificial has been evident in the show. Her works seems like conversations with nature where her pet squirrel officiates as the translator. Interestingly, the squirrel which uses the artist's body as a tree that it climbs on has also played a role in metamorphosing the artist's self from the realm of the human to that of nature. One of the most evocative works in the show is a paper bowl filled with seeds that reminds one of fledglings looking out expectantly. The form enhances the sense of eminent germination with the bowl-like shape, a shape that in its emptiness refers to waiting to getting filled, evoking a sense of expectation.
The newly opened Focus Gallery has presented a solo show 'Once more' featuring V. Anamika's works. The current series of works mark a departure from her earlier works that were predominantly abstract. In her recent works she uses the circle as the basic tool to compose the image and thereby tries to engage with different ways of perception. Another exhibition in the city that indirectly focuses on the idea of vision has been Manohar Devadoss's 'Mahema and the Butterfly'. A self-taught artist with a failing eye sight, Manohar Devadoss is known for his line drawings of the city which in their level of detailing indicate the triumph of a visionary over physical limitations. In his current exhibition, he has explored colour along with the line.
Lalit Kala Akademi hosted an interactive session between the artists of southern and north eastern regions. The southern region had artists like Appanna Pujari, Urmila.V.G, C.Krishnaswamy, Yarkaboyina Manohara Rao, Pradeep Puthoor, Basawaraj Musavalgi, Elanchezhian, Ganesh Selvaraj and others, while from the north-east Maneswar Brahma, Sanajaoba Tensuba, Matilal Kalai, Benedict Hynniewta, Punyo Chobin, Arundhati Chowdhury etc. participated. However the most interesting show of the month was organized by Indo-Korean centre (InKo) at the Lalit Kala Akademi. 'The Lamp of the East' curated by Insang Song, was an ode by Korean artists to Rabindranath Tagore, based on whose poem the show was titled. Almost all the works in the exhibition had a minimal and meditative feel from Lee Leenam's gently falling snow flakes in the video 'Moonpot' to Debbie Han's acrylic and aluminium prints. The most striking work in the show was the Buddha-like figure that was crafted with porcelain-like perfection. If the viewer went too close to the sculpture the many hands of the figure started swaying like the branches of a tree in the breeze. Perhaps, the graceful organic movement combining seamlessly with the unmasked metallic machinery could be seen an analogy to the works in the exhibition, which are visually appealing, and at the same time thought-provoking.