Exhibition: Four artists and a sculptor trace the journey of the line in their works

A line can be a whimsical thing. There can be no other explanation as to how four artists and a sculptor went on to explore ‘The Line' in startlingly different ways, as part of this year's The Madras Arts Initiative. The idea was to introduce it as a significant element of visual arts, architecture and even music in South India.

Parvathy Nayar's depictions were graphite on wood — grey, clinical sketches of microscopic images of the eye and the womb, set in a deep red border that was a contrast not only in colour, but in vitality as well. The delicate cells, the corrugated close-ups of flesh and blood that look startlingly fragile even in the largest of sketches, all in a moody grey. It is a rather peculiar depiction of the eye, as the instrument of perception, and the womb as that of life.

Rm Palaniappan's geometric lines seem symbolic of much of human life and its nameless journeys. Perfect unwavering lines suddenly descend — or ascend — into chaos, they change colour and texture, they intersect, loop back upon themselves, swivel and swirl, and sometimes fade away quietly into the pale brown canvas.

Recurring themes

Framed coffee-coloured papers roughly torn from a notebook were the canvases for much of C. Douglas's works. He worked with recurring themes, like the Poet and the Butterfly, birds, ladders and keys, with subtle interjections of text, sometimes using the canvas itself as colour — black or brown etched out some of the figures, while their absence created the others. In one of the works, a mysteriously black butterfly settles on, and almost transforms into the profile of a human face, ostensibly the Poet.

Ganesh Selvaraj's works, created solely from hundreds of slender strips torn from pages of magazines, were as much a comment on media and culture, as on colour and texture. The strips criss-cross, dance, jumble and tangle hopelessly; but through the middle of the canvas runs a clear, thick white strip of paper. The strands of colour sometimes pass over it, but is never really able to obscure it; a statement perhaps on how the truth can always be seen, albeit through chinks. Another work used the same technique, only they were laid out in horizontal strips with yawning, white, accusing gaps in between. The complete picture is missing, it seems to say; what you see may be colourfully distracting, but it just isn't the whole picture.

While these artists traced the ‘Journey of the Line', Dimpy Menon created the ‘Fluid Forms' — blackish-gold forms hewn from bronze, sculptures long-limbed and faceless, but for their heavy lips. That these poetic figures, set with identical expressions, could convey vastly differing vocabularies, emotions and stories, was remarkable. Slender arms and collarbones trace histories and landscapes, frozen gracefully in motion. ‘In Rhythm' pauses a body mid-leap, as a metallic ribbon twirls around an outstretched arm; ‘Conversations' makes you want to lean in close enough to hear what the two figures are saying. They drape, almost fluidly, on stone; they declare, they dance and demonstrate – powerful not just in form, but in statement. Outside the main gallery, a life-sized figure of burnished gold rests on the stone floor, arm beneath her head, languid, sensuous, and at peace.

The exhibition will be on at the Apparao Galleries till January 14.