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Epic in new idiom

Ramakrishna Vedala's paintings depict scenes from the Sundara Kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana in different media


THE PAINTINGS by Ramakrishna Vedala exhibited at the Lakshana Art Gallery depict scenes from the Sundara Kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana. If one expects to see calendar art, it would be disappointing. The creations in different media such as acrylics, watercolour, mixed media, etching, linocut and pen-and-ink are in a contemporary idiom. Nevertheless, the spirit of the epic is much in evidence, if only because of the dedication of the artist.

Said Vedala, "Though I know Sanskrit I have read the Valmiki Ramayana only in Telugu. I also referred four different texts, including the one published by the Ramakrishna Mutt. My choice fell on the Sundara Kanda because it is full of beautiful descriptions of Nature even as it narrates the adventures of Lord Anjaneya.It offered me great scope for imagery". In Vedala's works, Hanuman is shown as a compassionate, saintly figure, except in his `Visvarupa' in front of Sita in the Asokavana, where he reveals his true powers to reassure her. The creations are arranged sequentially, from Hanuman preparing to take the leap across the ocean till his confrontation with Ravana. The linocut depicts the meeting of the two in a simple colour scheme of yellow, red and dark brown. Every painting has the Sanskrit lines relevant to the scene written around as a border.

The human forms, animals and birds are stylised while still conveying the essence of the story. In some works, Anjaneya is represented by his `Yantra' as in the scene where he gets his first view of Lanka.

Indicating his status as a sublime soul are a couple of paintings where his head emerges from a lotus.An integrated graphic print of etching, intaglio and an ink drawing show the fish in the ocean like skeletons, animals in the forests agitated and trees uprooted when Hanuman leaps with his tail appearing like a flag. Another painting reveals the rocks splitting up spraying varied colours, animals running out howling, birds and fish agitated and waves rising. He is shown as a Prakritipurusha, a manifestation of Nature itself.

The sheer force and speed of his flight across the ocean are revealed in his form in `Mt. Mainaka's offer of resting place'.

"Multiple images populate the two works on the `Dream of Trijata'. The various elements are arranged in a balanced manner — one has Ravana with a shaven head and black body on one side and his fall from the Pushpakavimana in an inebriated condition on the other with the kind demoness Trijata in the middle predicting his ultimate downfall. In the other, Rama and Sita are shown seated on a white mountain with Rama and Lakshmana on a white elephant on both sides and the final scene depicts the crowning which in fact is a real calendar picture.

Both these paintings have a mosaic-like quality not only in their bright colours but also in the way the elements are spread out in an attractive pattern.

There is a Tantric slant to the etching `Hanuman amidst women folk' looking for Sita in Lanka; his face looks down on the union of male and female of various species like snakes, fish and human beings above the ten heads of Ravana. The sober shades of green, brown, and yellow contrasted with white as also the suggestion of varied textures make the print attractive.

The long horizontal panel on the wall opposite the entrance freezes the viewer to the spot for a while. `Surasa's obstruction' depicts stage by stage how the Nagamatha (female serpent) challenges Hanuman's ability to go past her into Lanka, how he grows larger than her open mouth every time and how he finally assumes a minute form and simply floats through her inside and comes out. The green form of the snake is fascinating, its head seeming to house the entire animal world in it; the scaly body has been given a gem-like glow.

With a post graduate degree in Art History, besides a bachelor's degree in painting, Ramakrishna Vedala had won a cash award from the Nehru Trust for Indian Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum to pursue Matisse's influence on Indian art and a research grant from the Ministry of Culture to study the cult of the Mother Goddess in coastal Andhra Pradesh. He has also been a researcher at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Sanskriti Kendra and the American Research Center for Ethnomusicology, New Delhi.

The exhibition of Vedala's paintings at Lakshana Art Gallery is on till January 3, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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