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It's technique over form

The works of Andhra-based artist A. Rajeswar Rao, on show at Forum Art Gallery till June 28, are heavily influenced by rural life.


THE CITY of Chennai is witnessing vigorous art activity in terms of artists' shows from across the country. Taking cognition of the fact that Chennai-ites are displaying sensitivity to the contemporary artistic milieu, the mushrooming of commercial art galleries in the recent past is a good barometer of the growing artistic temperature among the denizens of this city.

One such is Forum Art Gallery, which is presently showcasing the works of Andhra-based artist A. Rajeswar Rao. A chip off the old block, Rao is the son of A. Paidi Raju, a modern Indian artist, whose contribution to the national mainstream was noteworthy and also an alumnus of the Madras School of Arts and Crafts. Rao's works have strong local allegiances in terms of subject matter and ethnography. His iconography is derived from the local environ. Having shifted residence from Hyderabad to Hyderguda, a peripheral town 10 kms. from the State capital, he has been influenced by the sights and sounds manifesting the rural ambience. His romantic bent of mind does not permit social realities to become central in his works.

Rao says, "There is enough violence around, and there is no necessity to create them as artistic expressions. I had done a series earlier for a show in Delhi, in which social and political violence was the theme. But I felt extremely uneasy and disturbed while working on it and decided not to indulge in this theme again." The present show is a sequel to "Portrait of Marriage" exhibited in Bangalore in 1996. It underlines the artist's escape from harsh reality by cocooning himself in family values and domesticity of his environment where the intimacy of a secure family allows for the precipitation of his ideas simply.

His titles are equally interesting — "Listening to Hanuman Chalisa", "Listening to Nature", "Listening to Madonna". The deity series such as "Hanuman" and "Maisamma" reflect his affiliation to both the contemporary and the traditional.

The artist draws inspiration from Tanjore glass paintings. He translates the traditional influence by mediating through the new synthetic material — acrylic. The acrylic medium enables the artist to create effects which are three-dimensional on a planar surface. And this explains his lack of interest in the canvas or paper as support to express his creativity.

Rao has sustained the use of this technique for more than a decade through which he has clarified his concepts that predominantly have human values. His technique does not allow for the use of traditional tools like brushes and palette. On the acrylic sheet, he spreads colour and scratches his forms using roller and needle both graphic tools for the realisation of his imagery.

As in glass painting, Rao has to work from the reverse side confidently etching out figurative imagery that calls forth his mastery in drawing. This was an imbibed unconscious pedagogy from his father whose strength of drawing Rao saw as a springboard for negotiating creative and personalised expressions.

Rao confesses to influences from Laxma Goud, his guru, K.G. Subramanyan, for his simplicity and distortion, and Picasso. Judiciously integrating with his drawing are the colours, which the artist builds up through transparent layers enhancing the depth of his composition. For Rao, the third dimension is extremely important. According to him, "It is the transparency of the sheet with colours that creates the effect of depth. And when there is depth, the viewer's interest is engaged for a longer time, as he allows his vision to cull out details, which otherwise are not there when surface is covered with large colour areas."

Through this laborious process, Rao builds up his paintings, creating an interactive dialogue of vibrant pauses and languid interest with the viewer.

The works of Rajeswar Rao are on at Forum Art Gallery, Padmanabha Nagar, Adyar, till June 28.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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