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Colourful collage of impressions

Sigurdur Orlygsson, an artist from Iceland, whose works are on display at the Cholamandal Artists Village till March 18, draws inspiration from the world around him.


ONE OF Iceland's leading contemporary artists, Sigurdur Orlygsson has spent the past four months in India and is presently an artist-in-residence at the Cholamandal Artists Village in Injambakkam.

Usually executing large-scale oil paintings and amalgamating sculptural elements into his work, the present need to transport his works back to his homeland has pushed him into working with the quick-drying medium of acrylics and in relatively smaller formats. His earlier works have mostly been symbolic, comprising mythological and phantasmic elements based on the imaginative allure of stories from his childhood, conjoined with a subtle resonance from the art of Edvard Munch and Richard Mortensson.

The current exhibition titled `Gaze: Memory' consists of a straightforward look at the milieu that presently surrounds him. He does not paint the crowds in India as he sees them, but rather sparsely populated architectural environments with very few animals and human beings.

The rugged severity of Icelandic terrain he once represented, where the conflicting elements of heavy artic snow and searing hot volcanic lava share a uniquely adjunct existence, is now replaced by the bright sunlight of the Indian urban landscape that starkly delineates forms. For a person with little encounter of the world beyond Western Europe, India is a vastly disparate experience "so different, even the crescent of the moon is tilted the other way. It is all very strange, and yet I like it very much." He sees himself not merely as a tourist, but as a migrant for a short period in his life, for he is living with the people, experiencing and sharing their lives.


What is remarkable in this present series of paintings is the enormous change not only in terms of thematic content, but also the expressive quality itself. Where earlier every work had an inbuilt narrative vocalised by means of symbolism, the present Sigurdur's paintings are true-to-life renditions of the world around him.

He absorbs what he sees and the mixed imagery transforms seamlessly into a collage of impressions and interpretations in the realist idiom.

His strong use of colour complements the stark Indian sunshine, so different from the long unlit winters of his native land. Light and shade are portrayed in direct contrast clearly spelling out volumes and filling forms. The habitually lonesome locales have figures that avoid eye contact, each leading an insulated life, with almost every work portraying an animal, particularly the cow, ox, buffalo or dog, which according to the artist seems ever-present in the urban Indian setting.

The exhibition is on at Cholamandal Artist's Village till March 18.

SWAPNA SATHISH

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