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Flair for the figurative idiom

Artworld, as part of its 40th anniversary celebrations, is showcasing the paintings of Dhiraj Choudhury, including his early works



Beautiful interplay of lines and hues: One of Dhiraj Choudhury's works

WHEN SOLI Dharuwala wanted to strike out on his own in the world of art, he chose Chennai, then known as Madras. He used to work with Keku Gandhi in his Chemould Gallery in Bombay, which he still recalls with pride.

In the 1960s, Madras was virgin land in the field of art framing. Dharuwala set up Sarala's Art Centre in the Safire Theatre complex undertaking framing, selling art materials and paintings. Later, the business moved to the Connemara Hotel premises and then to the place next to Hotel Taj Coromandel, before settling down on the first floor of a spacious old building, opposite Ethiraj College. The old world atmosphere of the building and the tall walls were ideal for hanging paintings.

Husain's logo

Dharuwala has handled the works of most leading artists of India, including M. F. Husain and his contemporaries. When the time came to vacate the building, his daughter Sarala and her husband Banerjee began to run the business on Cenotaph Road under the name Artworld nine years ago.

It has been four decades since Sarala's Art Centre was born. This year, to commemorate its 40th anniversary, Husain has made a special logo for them called `2005 Year of Indian Contemporary Art', according to Banerjee. He added that though they had been dealing with artists from Bengal in the past, from this year they would be handling five prominent artists of that region, namely, Paritosh Sen, Jogen Choudhury, Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi and Shyamal Dutta Ray.

Realistic images

Artworld begins this year with an exhibition of paintings by Dhiraj Choudhury. We get to see watercolours of his early days in the 1950s and early 1960s as a student of art in Calcutta as well as his acrylics of the recent years showcasing different styles.

The early works are realistic scenes from rural and urban areas in sober hues. Mountain streams, winding roads on hillsides, landscapes, workers building a bridge, people walking in the streets, crows sitting on two poles — these are not only charming, exuding the innocence of youth, but also one can see the young artist experimenting with styles. There are also a few abstract ideas.

After moving to Delhi, completing his course in art and becoming a teacher there, Dhiraj evolved his own figurative style, which has become his stamp of identity. Two aspects of these works catch one's attention — the vibrant colours and the highly stylised forms. The human forms are elongated, the limbs looking like ropes, and some parts, exaggerated.

Nevertheless, there is a sense of romance in the imageries in the interplay of lines and hues like yellow, red, green and blue. There is nothing still about them; every bit of the canvas is highly animated leading the viewer's eye from one spot to another in quick succession.

Dhiraj's favourite clown finds space repeatedly in the works, grinning, smirking and grimacing. An added element in the recent paintings is the white cat; it stands even in front of Krishna playing the flute. Through such commonplace forms and figures, which metamorphose as artistic elements, Dhiraj seems to reach out to the viewers and hold their attention.

The show is on at Artworld till January 30, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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