An exhibition of digital paintings by C.R. Manmadhan showcases smoke photography.

Although there are several experiments on in the field of digital art, the medium remains fairly uncharted. Artist C.R. Manmadhan’s solo show of digital paintings ‘Imagination’ on at David Hall, Fort Kochi, is a step forward in this exploration and expansion.

Manmadhan shoots smoke and smoke haze, a concept of smoke photography that he says has been used before. He creates the setting by lighting incense sticks. He then enhances this seed image using digital tools, transforming it into a work of art. He has effectively used, in the 21 works on show, the exciting range offered by digital tools in this novel medium. The conventional paint and brush have not been used.

“Although there is more that can be done to the image, I stop when I am satisfied,” says Manmadhan, adding that it is an apt format for abstract painting. His love for the abstract comes from a childhood game of watching clouds gather in the sky forming strange shapes, telling stranger stories. Years later smoke has replaced clouds, stories have grown mature and the canvas transformed into shapes, forms, colours, shades, hues, contours that merge and melt, sway and swim in nebulous tantalising forms.

“I can manipulate the smoke but not the sky,” he says enjoying the unlimited possibilities that smoke photography allows, compounded by the freedom offered by digital tools. But then Manmadhan has worked before with figurative forms in watercolours, oils and acrylics. Here he introduces that element too in some works, like in ‘Hide and Seek’, where the human form is surreptitiously brought in among digitised wrinkles of a bark.

In ‘Animal Kingdom’, a work in neon shades, one can spot animals through a miasma of smoke that works itself into an elephant trunk, into a coil of a snake, the hump of a cow and so on. Smoke sways to the form of Krishna with his flute. Three single tone works – ‘Nymph’, ‘Old Age Fantasy’ and ‘Apsara’ are works where the smoke line is clearly defined before it spreads into hazy shapes.

‘The Dog’ and ‘The Other Side’ are works where the abstract takes over the figurative.

He plays with backgrounds adding a textual feel to the canvas. He introduces depth by layering and through the use of colours, revelling in the unbound license of the abstract, of digital space.

Manmadhan, a veteran journalist, has held a few art shows earlier. He kept his artistic yearnings in abeyance till retirement gave him time and space to indulge in the call of his heart.

The show is on till September 26.