Art Santhana Krishnan's Travelling Doors offers a gateway into a fast-disappearing way of life

Doorways become portals to disappearing worlds in Santhana Krishnan's exhibition, “Travelling Doors” at Kynkyny's art space.

Inspired by the traditional homes at Kumbakonam, with their bright wooden doors, brass yards and temple motifs, Santhana Krishnan creates vivid doorways, either as mixed-media works on wood or in acrylic.

The doorways he creates in wood (both large and small, in panels or on boxes) are almost real, with their brass locks or knockers and carved frames.

They are painted in loud, almost fluorescent colours — green, red, orange or blue. He even captures the transition in panels above the doors from stained glass and carved figures of the Indian deities to simple designs in metal.

“I have been working on doorways for the past 16 years, since my college days in Kumbakonam, which is also my mother's hometown,” says Santhana. “These doorways bring back memories of childhood for a lot of people. These happy memories are vivid, like the first time you smelt your favourite perfume.”

The doorways almost always lead into other doorways, separated by sunny courtyards. There are usually the same motifs behind the doors — pails, parked bicycles, saris hung out to dry in the sun, tulsi plants and crows, perched on the low, tiled roofs of the houses.

“Doorways are important and they always travel with us. Love and secrets need doorways, even the eyelid is a doorway to the world. In the villages, these doorways are full of life, one can see the agraharams (literally meaning a ‘a garland of houses'), the turmeric and kumkum on the doors, brass vessels that are a disappearing family legacy. These doorways are pieces of poetry,” explains the Chennai-based artist.

What the artist actually does by maintaining the imagery behind the doorway is to evoke a sense of these old houses. The conspicuous absence of people could be a reflection of the fact that these traditional houses are slowly fading into oblivion.

Sometimes, the doorways sit amidst fading advertisements, yellow walls instantly point to “Maggi noodles”, red walls celebrate “Coca Cola”.

They even carry pop-art like posters of iconic Bollywood movies (Amitabh Bachchan in “Sholay” or Rishi Kapoor in “Bobby”), a tribute to the first movies the artist watched, in the way they were advertised then.

Most of these walls are old and fading. They are rendered so realistically that the viewer almost feels like touching the walls and stepping into these worlds that are slowly being tucked away in the corners of old places.

The artist has explored this theme in watercolours, oils and moving on to acrylics, mixed media and now wooden boxes. His works, though realistic, are always conspicuously geometric, infusing more romanticism into his nostalgia.

“People won't like it if the image is too realistic, there are photographs to convey reality. So a painting needs to remain different. My paintings have textured layers and I want to celebrate those colours.”

“Travelling Doors” will be on view until February 9 at Kynkyny, 104 Embassy Square, 148 Infantry Road.

For details, contact 40926202.

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