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Art out of nothing

"Re-creations" showcased aesthetic images from discarded items


ONE WAY of reducing garbage could be recycling much of the material that are thrown away. Most of it can be used to make functional objects; a person with an artistic bent of mind could even create objects of art from discarded materials, be they domestic or industrial. Thus when Lakshana Art Gallery invited five young artists of Chennai — Benitha Perciyal, Dinakara Sundar, Jacob Jebaraj, C. Krishnaswamy and B.O. Shailesh to participate in a "Re-creation" workshop, they came up with some interesting concepts.

Benitha, whose works usually are somewhat autobiographical, has created something that is quite disturbing. It is a female form and the face is a mould of the artist's face. Dressed in Benitha's old clothes burnt at the edges, it hangs from the ceiling and there is ash on the floor beneath. "She is burning her thoughts," says Benitha. Wonder what is upsetting this young woman! The second one is about abduction of children for begging. Discarded dolls, which are partly mutilated, always make one feel sad. In Benitha's installation they remind us of mutilating children for the purpose of begging.

"We wanted to go beyond colours and express things that have left a deep impression on our mind since childhood," says Krishnaswamy and Dinakara. "This workshop gave us the opportunity. We don't want to categorise our creations. It is up to the viewers to give whatever name they want." Krishnaswamy's themes focus on recycling. One his images show how in many rural homes, and till some years ago even in urban homes, there would be a `kazhuneer thotti' (a trough for cattle feed), in which along with the regular feed, kitchen refuse like vegetable peels, water used to wash the rice etc. would also be thrown in. His second concept shows a manure pit. He has used real cowdung and vegetable peels in his works.

Dinakara's works are also based on rural life. One of them show how at every step of farm work, from planting the seeds to harvesting, the peasants offer prayers; on the field itself one can see bricks splashed with turmeric and kumkum representing a deity. Another shows the farmer resting in the shade after lunch. The cloth used for tying around his head serves as the pillow, which in Dinakara's work represents the man. The dry leaves spread on the ground represents the ploughed field. At one end is the decorated brick.

Shailesh and Jacob have been engaged in this sort of work for a while now. Jacob has used two sets of bald car tyres to create aesthetic and functional seats similar to a moda. They have been fixed with bolts and nuts and spray painted.

Shailesh's works are interconnected. "Highway for ants" has a comic element too. The rim of a bicycle wheel has a row of used soft drink cans. These are tied with several used copperwires in an intricate design and hung from nylon ropes extended on both sides. The ants can go round and round but cannot reach anywhere! The printed words on the cans are part of the imagery as grafitti. Fibeglass mouldings of birds hanging from the cans seem to indicate that now even the life of a bird is controlled by a man. On the wall is a small frame with a terracotta drum (thambattam used during Pongal) that has a face wearing a mask painted on it, indicating how people hide their true self. Bordering the frame are tiny colourful bulbs switching on and off.

All the works could possibly be referred to installations and reflect the serious thinking artists at work. "Re-creations" are on show at the Lakshana Art Gallery till December 13, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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