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A poignant reflection

`Reflection', an exhibition of paintings by Dr. Sajan Kurien Mathew, was held in the city this past week.


WORDS SUCH as meticulous and different are what come to mind as one observes `Reflection', a collection of paintings by Sajan Kurien Mathew.

Sajan's first solo exhibition in the city, `Creation 97', was held in 1997. `Reflections' had a large body of work on display - 33 sets, comprising 70 paintings.

Excitement were writ large on Sajan's face as he went about explaining his works to art lovers who had visited the Museum Auditorium Gallery, this past week. Asked how different this exhibition, `Reflection', was from the one held in the city earlier, Sajan says, "This time I've used ink and water colours and very little acrylic. I'm constantly questioning and judging my works; trying to go one step beyond, each time. After I complete each work, I pick up the finished canvas and re-evaluate it."

Sajan's strengths lie in his brush strokes and choice and application of colours, making his works, as seen in `Reflection', visually appealing. Synchronising `warm' and `cool' tones, the artist has given emphasis on white spaces.

In `Reflection', he has used shades such as ochre, burnt umber, brown, yellow and orange to give an earthy feel to his paintings. "My forte is surrealism. I love the painting, `Shakuntala', by Raja Ravi Varma."

Sajan explains that he chose to draw upon the Far Eastern paintings (Chinese and Japanese) and their techniques. "I have employed a lot of white space in this series of paintings keeping in mind the Chinese and Japanese paintings. I did my doctoral research on them."

What prompted him to take up Far Eastern paintings as his research subject? "I was fascinated by the amount of white or empty space found in those kind of paintings. The paintings are almost always done in ink and the use of different kind of colours is also limited. The artists in those regions do not sketch the drawing in pencil onto the paper or canvas. The Chinese believe that the artist's soul flows through his blood and into the brush while he paints. Hence, they apply colour directly on to the canvas"

Chinese paintings, says Sajan, feature landscapes with few human figures. Japanese artists, on the other hand, follow their traditional style and put more people on their paintings.. The lighter areas of Sajan's frames, with the human figures, are his impressions of life and his personal reactions to it. It is, in fact, his stress on white spaces that lends value to his colours. "I've used ink and water colour in the artwork because they have a transparent look. I wanted transparency in the emotions that I've depicted through my paintings," says Sajan.

Most of the paintings displayed in the `Reflection' series show the artist himself, with a bicycle or with his daughter. A few paintings juxtapose the rural and urban images of India, while some others depict the effect of alcoholism, cruelty towards animals and instances of communal violence in Gujrat.

A painting that generated great curiosity was the one depicting a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs is seen the headless form of Christ. The stairs are swathed in blood.

Art can turn into an exercise leading to complacency and boredom. Sajan's way out of these pitfalls is to "take risks". He works with different media ranging from oil, acrylic, ink, collage, wood and now glass!

He talks about the sculpture in glass he made recently: "I wanted to work on different media and for the latest experiment I chose glass. I've made the sculpture in glass myself, by blowing it and giving it different shapes."

The glass sculpture is shaped like an egg and has a pair of tiny hands (of a baby) emerging from the cracked shell. The egg is fitted in a `nest' made of fencing wires. "The wires show that the world is too unsafe to live in. As the baby emerges out of the mother's womb, it is thrust into a society filled with hatred and violence. I chose to depict violence through this work," Sajan says.

He uses paper cuttings from newspapers and magazines for his artworks. He has also used photographs, which have been carried by The Hindu, depicting child abuse and emancipation of women, for his collage and paintings. He also does abstract paintings but makes sure that people can relate to them. "The artist should enjoy his work. I have moved from realism to contemporary, abstract and surrealism. Only if one has a strong grounding in the realistic style of painting can one experiment with colours and forms later on," he adds. Sajan has also exhibited his paintings and other artworks in cities such as Ujjain, Gwalior, Jabalpur, New Delhi and Bhopal.

Sajan is continuously exploring the depths of diverse media, constantly evolving themes for his experiments.

SMITHA SADANANDAN

Graphics: Manoj

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