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The real picture

Even at 73, K.K. Venkateswaran's eyes don't seem to miss any detail



The artist's interest in architectural themes manifests itself in his depiction of temple ruins from Thailand.

K.K. VENKATESWARAN'S works impress by their proximity to photographic reality and meticulous attention to detail. A self-taught artist, Venkateswaran has developed his interest in painting and sculpture through a study of techniques employed by old masters of the western art. While retaining an interest in oil paintings, the artist seems to relish the scraperboard technique, where he uses acrylic paint.

He explains that the scraperboard technique is similar to engraving, but here, the metal base is replaced by a board or even a Formica sheet. The board/sheet is first painted with ink and then, with the help of a tailoring needle, the ink is scraped off carefully, to imprint an image.

Venkateswaran had put on show a set of scraperboard drawings of varying sizes and colours at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat gallery recently.

In the exhibition, the viewer got to see black-and-white portraits of distinguished personalities including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallababhai Patel, Sir C.V. Raman, Ramanujan, Swami Vivekananda, and Aurobindo Ghosh. It was obvious that he has used familiar and commonly-seen photographic images of these public figures and worked on his scraperboard technique. Some images seemed to come out more effectively than the others, but what was evident was a keen eye for detail. Among those which caught attention were the posed, yet graceful, portrait of Raja Ravi Varma rendered in sepia tone, a thoughtful Gandhi, and a striking Rabindranath Tagore.

Venkateswaran's interest in architectural themes manifests itself in his depiction of temple ruins from Thailand. The ruggedness of surrounding rocks and the smattering of weeds and plants added to the mood of the images, featuring tall pillars and conical tops of the temples. In some works like those on Ellora, there was a pleasing interplay of light and shade to compliment the well-made compositions. One could even experience the silence and solitude in these works, thanks to the black-and-white and light brown shades employed.

The artist also looked at other temples/caves such as those in Mahabalipuram, Kanheri, Badami, Hampi, Belur, and so on, but these works seemed to lose their allure due to excessive colouration. The well-known bracket figure at Belur is ambitious, but could not capture the poise, beauty, and expression of the sculpted woman. The panoramic views of Kedarnath, Rudra Prayag, with towering mountainscapes as the backdrop, were also pleasing, but lacked in emotional depth.

All that apart, the 73-year-old artist inspires through his sheer dedication and commitment. "My work is my best relaxation," says Venkateswaran.

ATHREYA

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