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Symphony on canvas

The "Symphony" series of paintings by Thota Tharani is a recital of poetic, melodious and meditative colours



Music becomes vibrant under Thota Tharani's artistic eye

"A WORK of art should aspire to reach the condition of music," said the English art critic Roger Fry, in order to privilege and establish the dominance of formal elements in painting as a critical aesthetic. If there is one artist who fulfils this condition it is Thota Tharani, whose music- inspired canvases on show at the Forum Art Gallery are a testimony to his control of the visual elements of colour and line.

Tharani's genealogy is artistic as his father was closely associated with film direction and was also an artist in his own right. From a tender age of four Tharani's romance with drawing started, encouraged by his father who bought him his first colouring book. Since then Tharani has not looked back. A family given to enjoying different forms of creative arts, these artistic and ingenious forays left a deep impress upon his creative consciousness.

Given less to reading or to any form of philosophising, Tharani's phenomenal memory registers every candid shot of life's visual experiences and draws upon this compendium of empirical stock to aid him in his conceptualisation both for film sets and artistic creations.

Foray into cinema

An alumnus of the Government College of Arts and Crafts [now Government College of Fine Arts] he passed out with a postgraduate diploma in painting in 1971. His began his foray into the celluloid world at the age of twelve, assisting his father on the sets. Understandably a life long affair with cinema began not so much its fluid medium as the creative act of visualising and designing sets that Tharani enjoyed. This was to result in his marking a trace on that front, signposting his talents in that arena.

Nevertheless Tharani when he wears the painter's hat comes into his own describing the act of painting as insistently devotional and a compulsion. He says, "I must do a drawing or even scribble a line before retiring for the day."

Visual music

His versatility dictates his choice of materials and medium as he has worked on a wide range and gamut. The present series titled `Symphony' goes back to the 1970s, in which Tharani has as his subject and theme music — both classical and commercial. Inspired by maestros such as Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Strauss, Brahms, Paul Mauree and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tharani in their music identifies the notes and the musical instruments and translates them through lines and colours to make visual music.

The process of painting for Tharani begins when he listens to a piece of music and identifies particular notes or instruments that captivate his imagination and then does a rerun of it and according to the notes and instruments, his brush commences a musical staccato on his canvas.

The variation of notes is expressed through colour. It begins as a ripple of lines, lines convert to colour, colour appropriates space, space gets contained within frame and then the chips start flying. The process evokes a musical symphony caressed by the artist's imaginative, inventive and intuitive reckonings to create surfaces that are soulfully mellifluous. The emblematic representations are converted to rippling swinging, dancing, rhythmic fluid sauntering lines or to formally structured colour areas or to tingling dots as they informally cohabit to string a garland of musical notes.

Imaginative strokes

Responding to music with its innuendos and diminuendos, Tharani's brush performs on the stage of his canvas to represent a recital of poetic, melodious and meditative colours, accompanied and juxtaposed by lines that have their own singing decibels, deciphered in their thickness or thinness. The reverberating tingling diminishing decibels of certain instrumental notes like that of the final strike on the drums find their significance in the bubbly dots which fly on the canvas. The representation of musical modes or ragas in Indian miniature tradition is not unknown to us. While the traditional miniature artist translated his ragas through figurative imagery we have Tharani performing the same in the language of abstraction with apt vocabulary. If one notices a vibrant and structured turf of green it is the basal notes in the classical structure of music. In this vein, his canvases are punctuated by the type and quality of notes emerging as the jagged range in scale of colour values from pinks to mauves or the framed space of violet or the cones of yellow radiating. The show is on at the Forum Art Gallery, 57, Fifth Street, Padmanabha Nagar, Adyar, till January 15, 2005.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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