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LIGHT ON RUINS

Charan Sharma's paintings reflect the visual richness of temple and haveli architecture


RAJASTHAN-BORN Charan Sharma's large sized canvases in acrylics and water colours on paper are romantic and an authoritative depiction of architectural ruins both imaginative and real. Some of his works are on show at the Vinyasa Gallery.

His repertoire centres on the element of light, which alludes to positive attitudes about life both at the spiritual and psychological planes.

Coming as he does from a tradition of artists in Nathdwara, Rajasthan, Sharma says, "I am an artist." The visual richness of the architecture in terms of havelis and temples are an integral dimension of his life.


Sharma's works transport the viewer to the majesty and awesome visions of the picturesque medieval ruins of cathedrals and castles in the renderings of the 19th Century romantic paintings. And nearer home, they bear a strong affinity to Company paintings of the colonisers who recorded the cultural tradition of the natives, so to speak.

Sharma's paintings, nevertheless, reverberate with a masculine vibrancy, reinforced with his amazing and accurate draftsmanship, in which every detail, texture, architectural element and the sharpness of light seem to make the surface of the stone quiver with a life all its own.

The ambience manifesting his paintings is one of absolute stillness, almost forbidding reactions or responses of any nature from the viewer. What is enigmatic are the textures of the stone that Sharma has recreated with a tactile appeal.

Years of experience have honed the artist's visual skills, enabling an easy translation through his tools. As Sharma clarifies, "I use Chinese round headed brushes. And the strokes are not brushed either vertically or horizontally, rather I squiggle them on the canvas so as to recreate textures of any nature." This working process developed to recreate the exact appearance of the stone whether chisel marked, weathered by the elements, marked by human hands or in their natural state is the signatorial style of Sharma.

Sharma's compositions are complex. The meandering and enigmatic perspectival scenes, are further made melancholic and awesome by the play of light in the nooks and crannies. Despite creating such an architectural grandiosity, there is a feeling of structured artificiality in these edifices. Maybe it is the earth tones of predominant browns that create effects of regimentation. Though far away vistas visible between the pillars enhance the timelessness of his themes, it is the nuanced innuendoes of the transient nature of light ever fleeting and in a state of constant flux that provides poetry to his paintings.

The academic realism that hallmarks Sharma's works links his technique to the colonial pedagogy with its insistence on the use of renaissance apparatus of perspective, chiaroscuro, foreshortening, etc. but his cultural rootedness to his native region, which allows recreation of past as tradition in terms of these temple ruins and haunting palatial fragments, posits Sharma as an artist with postmodernist sensibilities. These imagined and real ruins may not fall under the category of `quotations' or `appropriations' as derivatives from popular cultural sources but through the masquerades of the past Sharma catapults to project sameness in difference engaging in the visual diplomacy of remaining rooted in his individual heritage.

The show is on at till December 20.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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