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Artists and their angst

Varied feelings and emotions find expression in the paintings of four young artists


THERE ARE a few things that are common about the four post graduate students of the College of Fine Arts, Chennai, which come through in their paintings being exhibited at the Lakshana Art Gallery — their confidence in their talent and the conviction about the quality of their creations and their existential angst. Their fear and uncertainty about being accepted as good artists, insecurity and confusion about their future are there to see in their figurative concepts. The very title `What can I do?'of a painting by Sridhar says it all.

While their anxiety is too obvious in the subjects and their execution in the paintings of Sridhar and Ezhilarasan, it is camouflaged by Satish Kumar and Shanmugam by the deliberate choice of their themes. All the four have gained a certain mastery over technique and evolved individual styles.


Satish creates a fairy tale atmosphere in his imageries be it `Princess with love' or `Angels garden'. We find tall elegant women standing in a dreamlike landscape of tall trees, hills and valleys, dressed in flowing garments with flowers in their flowing manes. While their facial features are not indicated except for their eyebrows as if unwilling to reveal their identities, their hairstyles remind one of the tribal women of the Nilgiris in `Near Mundh'. Tiny glittering groups of spots are found here and there adding to the decorative nature of the concepts. "People are not what they seem to be; there is always an invisible mask hiding their true self," says Shanmugam. His concepts are mainly the scarecrows in the fields used in place of human figures. The heads are pots painted with eyes, nose and mouth; even these are quite expressive as seen in `Emotions' showing a male and a female with a smile in their eyes. The same can be said about his other imageries reflecting varied feelings. In his works too, the influence of the Nilgiri tribes can be seen in the shawls covering the forms in `Emotions'. Suggestive of the confusion in thinking and the sense of probing in darkness is the painting `Realm' — why this title, one wonders — the animal has put its head into a pot, its front paws are that of a cat while the rear ones are of a dog.

Sridhar and Ezhil use themselves as models in their work. With a realistic approach to portraiture, the former expresses his emotions representing himself in various poses. Digging his fingers into his cheeks, the eyes expressing fear like a hunted animal, he asks `What can I do?' Expressive eyes and lips are his main forte. Even in `I am in love' one can sense the self doubt in the eyes. The bluish green colour of his squatting body hugged by his arms in `Where is the truth?' suggests a sense of being alone in an alien world. In `Inside the bowl', he is seen holding a bowl which has a copy of the prehistoric cave paintings on it. The same can be seen in another work also. Perhaps he wants to say that our cultural roots can be traced back to the cave man.


Except a few, in others, Ezhil has featured himself in his naturalisitc depictions. The body language and facial expressions are disturbing as in `Dijuruth self' or `Quixotic self'. The `King' catches one's attention by a regal bearing, though the man is not shown with regal trappings. The `Cat' is almost hidden in the painting, while it highlights the contrast between beauty and the beast, where the latter appears like a cadaver, which has woken up suddenly to shock the beauty. `Guard' shows a lion and lioness vaguely but the human form has turned away with its head bent down, as if avoiding to look at them. But the most disturbing works are `Queen' and `Medicine'. `Queen' shows an old woman with fear written all over the face and her famished body. The latter is of a woman in the throes of giving birth to a premature baby — the swollen pale stomach, the blood spalshed all over — it makes one feel rather uneasy.

The show is on till October 31, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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