Art News & Views

Musings from Chennai

July – August 2011

by Vaishnavi Ramanathan

The last month was a month of art camps and residencies in Tamil Nadu. While Art Chennai held a camp at the hill station Kodaikanal in which artists like Binoy Varghese, Rajan Krishnan, Sujith S N, Benitha Perciyal, C Douglas, Monali Meher participated, Ashvita Arts also held its artists' residency with many Baroda based artists like Arun K S, Roshan Chhabria, Shrimanti Saha, Prasad K P, Dipal Patel participating. Ashvita Residency's first show was curated by young artist R Magesh and focused on artists working with new media. However the following residencies will be based on an application based process from which four artists will be selected annually.

Cholamandal Artists' Village presented the works of N G Gurunathan as part of its 'Artist of the Month' initiative. Gurunathan was initially known for his paintings in black and white where despite the lack of colours, the mood was seldom sombre. This mood continued in his subsequent abstracts where he used hand ground colours applied on crumpled and textured paper. The grainy surface quality evoked the gravely jungle paths the artists travelled through to create the paintings. While in his recent works too he captures the impressions of a jungle, a new colour, pink, has entered his palette, making it seem as though his paintings have moved from forests to a more domesticated garden like space. Gurunathan's use of colour has been one of the one of the most engaging aspects of his paintings with colour constituting both form and body. Beginning with a playful use of greys and blacks to pastel shades that in reality are seldom found in the wilderness, his paintings are now predominated by pink. Yet in his recent works, there is also a contrary trend evident in the crimsons and black which unlike before are used in such a way that there is a sense of brooding mystery. Thus it seems as though from the heart of the pink and white light of his other paintings he has extracted the dark tones and has finally found the strength to use them.

Vivek Vilasini had a solo show of digital prints Between One Shore and Several Others at Gallery Sumukha. The first image that greeted the viewer on entering the gallery was a large digital print of a typical Indian street, narrow and overcrowded with a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. The positioning of the statue just outside the door of a house made Mahatma Gandhi appear like yet another middle class urban dweller who was stepping out to go to work. The feet of Gandhi that was mired in the road/cut off spoke both of the leader's helplessness at the nation's state as well as his reluctance to step on to the puddle of water right ahead of him- an interesting commentary on the kind of times we live in where even an icon like Mahatma Gandhi is incapacitated. His engagement with architecture was also reflected in his photographic series on houses in Kerala painted with bright wall colours that created a sort of mosaic on the walls of the gallery. This sensitivity to regional aesthetics combined with a sense of humour was evident in his work after Richard Hamilton's iconic 'What Is That Makes Today's Homes So Appealing?' The image of a muscle builder with a Kathakali mask with the logo of Maruti car next to him was a clever pun on the car that personifies middle class aspirations as well as on the god Maruti/Hanuman who especially in the light of recent political developments has come to be associated with brute strength.

The last month has also been a month of abstracts with Focus Gallery exhibiting the watercolour and pastel abstracts of Bhagwan Chavan and Apparao Galleries hosting a group show of abstracts by Sohan Qadri, Smriti Dixit and Manish Nai. Apart from this there was also a solo show of Satish Bhaisare's linear abstracts at Apparao Galleries.


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