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Journey down history

Artist Asma Menon leads us into the visual world of myths and legends


STORIES, MYTHS, legends, history are part of our lives. Most of us have been fed on this rich diet - courtesy our grandparents and books.

Asma Menon's artistic passion ensures the narratives come alive through art - in a visual vocabulary of her own. Asma is exhibiting her works at Kalakriti Art Gallery.

Asma grew up surrounded by books. "My parents had distinct reading styles - my father would read the Bhagavad Gita, Bible and Koran, while my mother would read Wordsworth, Greek mythology and others and would even liberally quote verbatim from books. My husband listened to stories of the Mahabharata and the cross influences of both are there," says Asma.

The paintings are visual narratives - personal interpretations of personalities or events. As Asma says: "It is our curiosity as artists that we seek new lands in our works. Life as an artist is akin to clairvoyance, delving into the conscious and sub terrains of the psyche. It is this unending fathomless ocean that gives rise to artistic passions."

Women occupy the canvas in a substantial way. Asma has titled the show as Pandora's caravan. "With Pandora as the first woman (in Greek mythology) comes the journey of a lifetime... Pandora was gifted by other gods and was thus sent to the earth and these gifts hold good for today's woman.


The graces bestowed on Pandora - love, tenderness, creativity and other such refined sensuality. As an artist and a woman I feel akin to the embodiments bestowed on Pandora, for without curiosity where would my work be, without love, how would one express, without creativity, how will I journey in my caravan of dreams and hopes?"

Asma's historical and mythological journey, therefore, revolves quite a bit around women. A series of six works (mixed media on paper) titled The Nights are Mine revolve around women from different traditions and different points of time - Gandhari, Mediosa, Eve, Four Mary's, Morticia (from the Adams Family Value comic), Princess Uttama from Sri Lanka. These bear the stamp of Indian miniature paintings and prints (they have a bit of colour). Since the artist started as a printmaker the effect is evident. Using the pen and watercolour pencils skilfully, the artist has delineated the forms in fine detail. The Chennai-based artist has been painting since her childhood. "In fact my two passions in life as a child were to draw and paint and have dolls. So it was easy for people to present gifts on birthdays." Asma has held solo shows and participated in group exhibitions within the country and abroad.

Asma is also involved with children - she has been conducting workshops for children with HIV and also works in collaboration with Dorcas. She has designed sets for theatre productions of Anita Ratnam and Mithran Devanesan.

For a Little Theatre production Robin Hood (done in open air) she painted a mural spread over 150 feet in just one and a half days. "It's a different matter I fell sick after this," says Asma. She has also done an installation for a British Council production Beyond the Natural.

The exhibition at Kalakriti Art Gallery (468, Road no. 10, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Tel: 55564466) is on till February 22 (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.).

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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