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Faces in frames

Desert nomads populate the canvases of self-taught artist C. Balamurugan


"BEYOND REALISM: My Obsession with Characters" is an exhibition of oil paintings by self-taught artist C. Balamurugan. Besides designing for The Heritage in Anna Nagar, a store dealing with ethnic Indian artefacts and handicrafts, for the past eight years, he has spent many of his working hours here painting. He feels what is most important is involvement with art. "Most people leave their jobs when they take up art seriously. I didn't have to do that," says Balamurugan.

Enjoying the support of his employer he travelled to Rajasthan for inspiration, spending three weeks amidst people who fascinated him, quickly sketching from life elements that he would in the course of over a year incorporate into his paintings.

While the colours that these desert nomads surround themselves with are bright and garish in reality, Balamurugan has toned down the hues on his canvases in what he considers an attempt to make his paintings more agreeable to everyday viewing. Using browns to bestow an earthy feel, the subdued shades serve to emphasise the forms he renders.

Although fixated with the portrayal of eyes, but aware that as a recurring theme it could take on a stifling aspect, the artist has chosen to depict more. Women are the sole inhabitants of his canvases. "Caught unawares in the midst of their daily routine their expressions suit my presentation. They do not actually make themselves beautiful to serve as models." While the anatomical proportions could gain from an enhanced perception, the emphasis is on the face with the eyes almost always locked in a direct gaze with the viewer.

Textures carefully built up with the layered application of oil paint vie for attention with the busy details of textile patterning, and yet, all life is at a standstill for time seems to be plenteous for these people who sit or stand beside doors or windows, waiting. The integration of doors and windows into the painting by means of antique woodcarvings serving as interestingly unique picture frames further adds to the character of the work.

Presented by The Heritage, the exhibition is on at the Vinyasa Art Gallery in the Music Academy Premises, 168, TTK Road, until July 10. The paintings are available for sale accompanied by a sketch and a short written passage recounting the inspiration behind each painting. He also undertakes reproductions and portraits to order. For details contact 98400 70026.

SWAPNA SATHISH

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