Musings from Chennai
The Month That Was
by Vaishnavi Ramanathan
Focus gallery presented The Indigenous Line, an exhibition of A.P. Santhanaraj's works. An artist-teacher, Santhanaraj played a significant role in the Madras Art Movement of the 1960's, which used the line as an aesthetic and ideological tool. Therefore in this exhibition too there was a predominance of the drawn image. Apart from semiabstract sketches and landscapes, the feminine form was a recurring theme throughout. It was particularly interesting to see the way the artist had used sketchy, jagged lines to subvert the representational association between woman and the sensuality of nature, as the abstracted and chunky forms from which the figure emerged and merged, carried a powerful but elemental appeal.
An artist whose works delve into the rural-urban transition is Hyderabad based S.Nataraj, who had his solo show at Apparao Galleries. His watercolours and acrylics were fictionalised pages from a diary that recorded his move from the village to the city. The characters in S.Nataraj's visual diary were himself, his friends as well as other migrants like the artist. It seemed that for the artist this act of sharing a painted space was a way of recognising and participating in each other's struggles. The fragility of existence in the city was also captured in the paintings through the predominance of floating forms and the use of watercolours. The artist had brought out the monotony of a city through the repetitive use of images and motifs that most city dwellers would be familiar with. Along with this imagery from contemporary life, the artist had combined motifs derived from miniatures. The balancing of imagery from different sources and the acrobatic balancing acts of the figures within the frame ultimately became metaphors for the negotiations that one does to fit into the urban way of life.
Calcutta Arts Club presented Nostalgia- the works of Subir Dey at Vinnyasa Premier Galery. While many artists from Kolkata have exhibited their works in Chennai, Subir Dey's works were distinct in the way they could evoke the feel of the city. The images of princely figures, old type writers, gramophone players etc created a nostalgia for a lost past and for a viewer familiar with Kolkata, these paintings also created a nostalgic feel of travelling through the city. With rectilinear divisions of space and painted text in the background, there was a reference to letters and postcards; essentially modes of communication, which in this case connected the past and the present.
This month, Gallery Sumukha presented an offbeat exhibition; an exhibition of Polish film posters. The exhibition proved to be a point of contrast at two levels - with Indian posters, in terms of their status as collectibles and their emphasis on capturing the mood rather than the narrative. At another level, the attention to detail and individuality in the posters also proved to be an unfortunate contrast to some of the art shows happening in the city.