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Symbolic works

Installation art gives Benitha Perciyal a chance to work with varied media


THE ALLIANCE Française's badminton court has been sanded over and turned into a makeshift gallery for Benitha Perciyal's latest installation. Lines of white kolam powder connect the ceramic shells and burgundy heads that lie scattered with a kind of disordered precision on the sand. "I've worked with symbols that disturb me, though the title of my exhibition is "Perturb me Not," says Benitha. She says her works are usually autobiographical and often self-portraits, a habit she picked up while studying at the Government Arts College. "I used to spend a lot of time near the window in the classroom. The reflection in the glass seemed to be talking to me and I began drawing self-portraits." However, canvas and paper soon seemed too flat for her and she wanted to capture the excitement and the "urban melee" of the three-dimensional world outside of the gallery space. "Installation art gives me the chance to work with all kinds of media. And an installation is a continuous process, like a work-in-progress," she says, adding that the kolam lines on her installation at the AFM have to be re-drawn everyday, sometimes the heads and shells have to be re-positioned. "I feel that I keep changing — my thoughts, my ideas — so why should my work be the same."

The trees around the AFM building have been strung with teardrop-shapes of brown, spilling out with white spongy material. It's a depiction of the cottonseed that blooms and bursts during the summer. "It's a symbol that's been with me since childhood. Wherever you go in and around Chennai, you can see these trees in summer," she says.

Other symbols from her previous shows are the discarded dolls, which lie near a chalk drawing of her. This has been inspired by the pavement artists who draw pictures of gods on the streets and receive money for them. "What's the difference between artists like them and artists like me?" she asks. "My art is a form of questioning."

Inside the AFM Gallery, a female form with Benitha's face hangs from the ceiling. "I've used this symbol before too," she says. "It shows the floating sensation and is a personal statement," she says. "Installation art gives me a chance to show atmosphere in my work."

The show is on till April 29, at the Alliance Française of Madras, 24, College Road, Nungambakkam.

SHALINI UMACHANDRAN

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