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Abstract view of realities

RECENTLY, AN exhibition of paintings by Canadian artists was held at Amethyst. The exhibition was inaugurated by the French Ambassador, Peter Sutherland.

This was part of the Think Canada Festival, being held at all the Indian metros. The paintings were well exhibited on spacious walls. However, all the painters were not present at the inauguration, except Stephen Andrews and Wanda Koop.

Though the brochure said that these two painters were celebrities in their own country; they appeared to be extremely simple and approachable.

One of the distinguishing features of the exhibition was that the painters had used different techniques, mediums and colour. Stephen Andrews called his paintings ``Hoi Polloi" (Greek equivalent for masses). In his words, "they are pictures of crowds watching, being watched, waiting and demonstrating". The viewer has become the subject of the pictures and the crowd awaits the next move of the viewer. He feels that this anticipation reflects the current century's malaise, which can be summed up in the phrase `what's next'. He referred to his paintings as pictorial investigations from the self to the social, from the body to the body politic.

One of the remarkable features of his paintings was the hazy quality that the painter lent to it. Stephen spreads oil on canvas and uses pencil to draw figures. He draws parallel between the New Testament apostles who were then considered outlaws and the police surveillance photographs where perpetrators in crowds are singled out.

Wanda Koops' paintings were of a different genre altogether. She calls the series exhibited "Sightlines". The phrase itself comes from army signalling. All the paintings had in the background landscapes in grey or black. But, Wanda doesn't want to give the viewer the comfort that a landscape painting generally offers. She disrupts the comfort, the familiarity by imposing brackets, circles, dots and lines. She told me that these paintings were done at the time when the Gulf war was on and she watched on TV the bombings.

The electronic pictures of a natural landscape being bombed gave her the inspiration. They were not paintings of actual places but reconstructed landscapes built from tissues of memory and longing The intention was to do away with the orderliness and conventional beauty associated with landscapes.

Thus, the Canadian paintings reflected a different approach, concept and the use of colour — inward looking, seeking the reality of the present and the abstractness of the past.

VASANTHI SANKARANARAYANAN

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