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Collaged imagery

G. Subramanian's montage of collages are displayed at the Lakshana Art Gallery


ON THE face of it they look post-modern. But on a closer look one can identify certain forms. The intriguing collages of G. Subramanian beckon a viewer. Be it a Krishna, Hanuman or a girl, Subramanian's mixed media presentations include clippings/cuttings from various magazines. What is interesting is the choice of motifs/patterns/items and their usage. The blending of paint and paper and the textural effect are quite thought provoking. The artist's visual vocabulary includes the sacred and the profane and the viewer is left with colourful collages.

The patterning of ancient, medieval and modern images along with myth creates a post-modern mosaic. It seems as if the artist is trying a confluence of the traditional and modern in the compositions. The image of a god like Krishna and Hanuman is filled with remnants of old motifs along with modern consumerist items. For instance, even a part of the wheel of a car, clock, maps, metal coin/sculpture are used in various parts of the figure. A more or less similar figure of `Meenakshi' with a parrot or even a `Saraswati' on a lotus have the same visual effect. This may seem blasphemous but the religious aspect of the work is merely confined to the form - i.e. just the outline of the god.

The myth surrounding the gods and goddesses is broadly retained but the manner of portrayal is different - more contemporary. "I am fascinated by myths. A few paintings of mine are being exhibited at a show titled "Changing images of contemporary Indian art" at the University of Austin, Texas." Memory and myth are therefore quite integral to his works. What started merely as a change slowly gained ground. "I just did a Krishna first and then later I did Hanuman. The day I painted Hanuman was Hanuman Jayanti (it was an unconscious act).

Egyptian motifs predominate. Hieroglyphics, statues, maps or any of the antiquities of this ancient civilisation are seamlessly blended into the work without a jarring effect. In fact two small Egyptian statues are used as ears in a painting.

The image of the `girl' is dominant. Very often `she' is seen with large eyes, slightly asymmetric figure and even perhaps elongated or exaggerated physical features. There is a child-like quality about the works. The girl series reflects the angst of a father losing a young daughter. "My 12-year-old daughter died of cancer a decade ago. I taught art to children and I like the way they draw - easy forms of expression," says G. Subramanian. Perhaps this expression is reminiscent of his daughter and drawn from this association as well as those with children. In fact he has painted a girl with a yellow bird. "When my daughter was undergoing chemotherapy she used to stand near the window and watch a yellow bird who would come at an appointed time," says Subramanian.


The lotus is a leitmotif in quite a few works. "The lotus stands for purity and wisdom" and is an Indian motif. This also helps breaks the monotony of the form and image.

Subramanian likes to do collages. "When I was in college I won a prize for collage. More awards followed and I am now doing it for many years." He uses cuttings of whatever attracts him - "it could be even from a National Geographic magazine." He is always on the look out for something to catch his eye before it finds its way into his works. The viewer too can take time to look out for something different and try to comprehend the images.

The show at Lakshana Art Gallery is on till July 10 (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.).

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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