In celebration of The Madras Week, Taj Mount Road and Forum Art Gallery showcase an exhibition of paintings, “Present in the Past” by artists Biswajit Balasubramanian, C. Douglas, Karthik Ilango, K. Muralidharan, A.V. Ilango, Rm. Palaniappan, B.O. Sailesh, Sundararaju R., G. Gurunathan and Shalini Biswajit. The theme offers vibrant potential for exploring the city of Chennai, which today exudes a titillating visual culture while the infrastructure development of the city has changed its character. But the works disappoint except those of Biswajit, Douglas and Muralidharan, who have conceptually captured changing life in the metro.

Biswajit's works titled ‘Krishna I' and ‘II' are filled with humour yet are metaphorically inscribed.

A caricaturist, he has explored the definitive character of Krishna through exaggerated playful eyes that urge the viewer to stop, smile and then engage with it. In ‘Krishna I' his ‘leela' is through the ‘dandiya' with the maze of snakes, ladder and the dice through which he designs the destiny of mankind. ‘Krishna II' has him saving mankind by lifting Govardhan hill. The crowd constitutes trendy and goggled-eyed youngsters with cell phones displaying names such as Beyonce, Shakira, Spice Girls et al. The crowd is so life-like and wonderfully characterised that Biswajit reflects the spirit of the city and wittily authenticates the ubiquitous Krishna with his virtual site www.govardhan.com.

Douglas in ‘The Mirror' and ‘The Journey' allegorically inscribes the changing human persona and character through metaphors. These represent two interlocked female figures — the past and present and the latter as a youthful vibrant female form flying with the kite set as a polarity against the old woman walking in the rains sheltered by an umbrella. The simplicity of his style and textural rendering makes a powerful impact with his favourite greys and occasional strokes of primary hues.

Muralidharan's ‘Sita' and ‘Devi' has his continuum of the style and iconography, but he has played with colours as reflected in the light sweet pink complexion. The iconography has the leitmotif of a young sprightly girl flying on an animal, gesturing towards the freedom aspired by today's generation.

Cultural assimilation

Palaniappan's concept emerges through the abstraction of lines in his ‘Civilizational Ties' indexing the foundation of the city by the colonisers and the assimilation of cultures that resulted.

Sailesh's sculpture ‘Genetic Code' offers an interesting departure, particularly in its display with the inscribed form of the encased human imagery placed on the metal box that becomes symbolic of a closed secret.

Karthik's photographs have an enduring appeal particularly manifest in technique and colours, manipulated to create an ambience that reinforces his thematic content. The enigma that unfolds makes it dramatic and conveys his intensity of purpose.

The gesture in his works is towards economic degradation and its perseveration, metaphorically inscribed through the iconic Shiva.

Sundararaju's works have the echoes of tradition as manifest in folk visual language. Yet an interesting dimension is the script abstracted as a textured background that thematically conveys the Dravidian literary tradition.

Shalini's works decoratively abstracts the past and present with architectural silhouettes of monuments with rectangularity of modern buildings in confectionary colours.

Though Ilango and Gurunathan are mentioned their works are not displayed. The exhibition is on at Forum Art Gallery till September 15.

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