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Into the unreal world

Most of the imageries are rather surrealistic in Ravi Shankar's paintings, on show at Alliance Francaise



Watercolour on paper by Ravi Shankar

RAVI SHANKAR was drawn to art even as a young boy thanks to exposure to the work of his father and elder brother. After joining the College of Arts and Crafts, Chennai, he experimented with various media, though printmaking held a special fascination for him. He had tried out different types of printmaking such as serigraph, etching, intaglio, relief printing, stencil and blind embossing; in fact he had combined all these in a single work. He won the Charles Wallace Trust fellowship to study non-toxic printmaking in Edinburgh. Then Ravi Shankar moved to digital painting. But of late his interest has turned to acrylic painting. He finds this medium suitable as it allows him to layer his thoughts and emotions as quickly as they occur.

Face, central theme

His exhibition of paintings, titled "Faces", at the Alliance Francaise de Madras makes this aspect quite evident. Be it watercolour on paper or acrylic on wood, the face is the main element. But it is not just a single face; it often metamorphoses into two or three faces with just one pair of eyes. Some of them are in a somewhat cubic style. Also one can find faces within a face or one above the other. The outer form of a bird contains a female face. The acrylic works on wood are cut according to shape and pasted on boards.

One acrylic on canvas, for instance, looks like a woman's face at first glance. Look at it carefully and turn the canvas around, one can see the form of an elephant. In a watercolour, the nose and mouth on a face are actually the torso and head of a human body upside down. In yet another, a human form is seen squatting. One wood painting and another on canvas show the head like the sea with a boat, a swimmer trying to reach out to the boat and a moon above. One may find animals, fish or crab within a face.

Most of the imageries are rather surrealistic like the illogical, fleeting images in a dream, rushing memories layered one upon the other, clamouring for attention.

The expression in most of the faces is rather sad, the large eyes appearing to be lost in contemplation.

As Jean-Pascal Elbaz, director, Alliance Francaise, says, "These are not portraits but representations of beings from a different world. A more colourful, concrete yet unreal world," The figures are bold, almost confrontational, with vibrant colours used without inhibition. With varied shapes strewn around filled with fine lines along with areas of contrasting or complementary hues a range of textures and patterns is obtained.

The exhibition is on till October 21. The proceeds from the show as also from the sale of greeting cards and calendars featuring Ravi Shankar's works will go to "Gurukulam", a school in Panayur Kuppam, Chennai 600119, which strives to provide free, value-based education to children of fisher folk and physically challenged children.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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