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Colourful canvases

The debut solo show of paintings and installations by young artist Siva is on at Alliance Francaise till July 14. A review.


SIVA IS a young artist holding his first solo show of paintings at the Alliance Francaise of Madras. His concepts are a reflection of his reactions to what others think or talk of him. It is a kind of catharsis for him; once he has finished painting, he is rid of the upsetting feeling; it gives him a sense of liberation.

The male head in his paintings is bald and has a strongly chiselled face and the body is lean and tough as if confronting and challenging the world. Just one eye is painted but the expression in that eye is so piercing that anyone who knows Siva intimately can immediately guess who the person he is referring to. Quite often, the torso is set within a frame and a screen also finds place at the back or on the side of the main figures. Perhaps a reflection of Siva's traditional theatre background, where a screen is held in front of the main character as he/she enters the stage before dramatically pulling it away to reveal the person behind it. This aspect is discernible in the painting `Forefather' recalling Kannappa Thambiran, wellknown Therukoothu artiste, where even the name of the play `Marathadi Manithan' is seen vaguely, written on the wall behind the figure.

Obviously, Siva is very fond of apple, as it is seen oft-repeated in his paintings. It comes alone or with other elements. For instance, in the painting `Sand', the figure, perhaps the artist himself, is hidden inside the fruit seeking safety, hiding from the cruel world; the total form is embedded in the sand, recalling to mind the story of Duryodana, praying to bring back to life his slain brothers. This also is a reflection of the influence of theatre on the artist.

Two halves of an apple are nailed to the ground in `For us'. Is he figuratively nailing someone with accusations? Or is he feeling nailed by others' criticism? Siva seems to say "I am as much in danger of falling as anyone of you" in his painting of a clown, balancing on tiptoe on a globe placed on a bed of nails. The colour scheme and the facial expression of the clown are quite endearing.

In his acrylic and pastel works, he uses colours without inhibition; in fact, they play a role in the concepts themselves. He also uses firm lines to delineate the features, a clear stamp of the Madras School. Who is his inspiration? Feels Siva that it is Gauguin, who was the subject of his project during the fourth year in the College of Fine Arts, in the use of lines.

Besides the paintings, there are a few installations on show. `Painting studio at LK' indicates how it was like a haven of companionship for the young artists working there. The installation is made of fibreglass and plastic. `Chameleon' looks on one side like a ripe banana and on the other like a plantain flower, indicating the character of the lizard; this is made of rubber and set within a plastic box and wood frame.

A large installation is arranged on the second floor verandah - two big pear shapes - one red and the other green - are pierced with test tubes encircling the shapes; they have straw skirts at the base; the manner of fixing the test tubes indicates the vertical and horizontal rotation of the two shapes; two people talking at cross purposes, perhaps?

Siva reveals that he is very much part of the contemporary scene in his thinking and the way he expresses his ideas. His creations are on show till July 14, Monday-Friday 9.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday 9.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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