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Monday, Mar 29, 2004

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Shared Muse


TWO EXHIBITIONS got underway midweek at Durbar Hall Gallery and even as on the face of it they look as apart as chalk from cheese, it is interesting to note that both draw inspiration from a common source. T. A. Prahaladan recalls being mesmerised by the carved wooden sculptures in the temples that dotted the skyline of his village. The forms of dwarapalakas, gods and goddesses combined with the architectural settings were the elements that formed the vocabulary of all his later works. Even as he went on to Santiniketan where newer techniques and ideas were the order of the day, which he readily incorporated into his style, Prahaladan feels he can still trace his moorings to the elegant forms that he witnessed in the temples. Besides, wood is his favourite medium, again a taste that harks back to the temple sculptural art. Now he enjoys combining different media, such as wood with iron and working with themes that are expressions of his daily life. Once on a train journey he ran into trouble with a group of hoodlums. A Painful Journey, a suitcase with a cut-out of a shaving blade owes its genesis to this fracas. Prahaladan is also drawn to music. She, The Rhythm and Pure Wood is proof of this passion. He sees cadences of music in the waves of the ocean, in the woman's hair as it flies in the wind.


The paintings of K. B. Murali owe their ancestry to the rich mural painting tradition of Kerala. Over the last few years there has been a revival of this unique art form, which once flourished in the state. It was a laborious and elaborate task preparing the temple walls before the artist could get on with his drawing. He was offered a limited palette of five colours; each assigned a meaning and symbolism that could not be tampered with. Iconography was sacrosanct. Murali too sticks firmly to the guidelines making sure that his pantheon of gods evoke feelings of divinity. Vishnu in his incarnations, Ram and Sita and Apsaras hovering in the clouds are some of his traditional themes. But Murali takes a step further to express his own creativity. There's a canvas representing birth and death, another showing Buddha under the Bodhi tree; both executed in a modern context. However, they lack the grace and charm that define his time-honoured subjects.


SUNANDA KHANNA

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