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Eclectic mix of styles

The Cholamandal Artists' Village has turned 37 and to commemorate the occasion, the works of 36 artists are on display till January 20.


THIRTY SIX artists are exhibiting their works at the Cholamandal Artists' Village, which celebrates 37 years of its existence. The Artists' Village in Injambakkam has the distinction of being one of the few artists' colonies in the world to survive successfully. Other thriving communes include the American settlement McDowell in New Hampshire, Worpswede in Germany, Ein-Hod in Israel, and closer home, ArtsAcre in Kolkata.

While the other artists' communities cater for all forms of art, Cholamandal provides a place where creative visual artists can find freedom to focus on their work.

Started in 1965 when there was no electricity or road leading to the village, much has improved since but it must be acknowledged that this has been solely due to the artists' determination, for the realistic problems faced are many, especially in terms of funds.

Cholamandal was fortunate to have had at the time of its inception the figure of K.C.S. Panickar, both as a leading artist and heading the then College of Arts and Crafts. When Panickar, in his last days, offered his oeuvre to the Madras government on the condition that a separate gallery was created to house them, there was not much response from the government. While Panickar would have liked his work to remain in Madras due to his connections with the city, in terms of the birth of the Madras Movement, his tenure in art education here and the formation of Cholamandal Artists' Village, the offer was taken up by the Trivandrum Art Gallery, which today owns a unique collection worth crores of rupees in the current art market.

Cholamandal has grown from an experiment to an `economically viable, intellectually stimulating and artistically fulfilling enterprise', whose artists seem to follow the dictum, `Nothing will deter us.' Work will begin later this year on a Cultural Centre comprising 2,500 sq.ft gallery space for Cholamandal's artists and 2,500 sq.ft museum space which will showcase a permanent collection of the Madras Movement from the 1950s to the present-day, with works donated by the artists. With completion expected by early 2004, there will also be two smaller commercial galleries of 600 and 400 sq.ft each for exhibitions by non-Cholamandal based artists.


The present exhibition of sculptures, paintings and drawings is a copiously eclectic grouping of styles, where the distinctive works by senior artists are complemented by the innovative expressions of a younger generation. The characteristic lines of Senathipathi have absorbed a vibrant colouration revelling in audacious carmine and viridian, while scratched swirls and straight lines co-exist harmoniously on a base of sparse paint in Akkitham Narayanan's works.

With curious forms propelling the viewer within, Gopinath's acrylics employ an interesting palette of rich yet subdued colours on various planes. Sombre greys and browns dominate the mixed media works by Douglas, with their surreal imagery where space is anxiously populated by snakes, ants, ladders etc.

Graphic prints by K.S. Gopal are evocative of manuscripts with their lyrical Tamil script and highly textured forms of tantric derivation. Nandagopal's bronze sculptures are ever resplendent in their amply coloured enamel work contrasting with the muted patina of Shailesh's metal sculpture which makes interesting use of found objects compelling the viewer to rethink familiar perceptions.

The exhibition is on till January 20.

SWAPNA SATHISH

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