C.N. Karunakaran's ongoing solo exhibition in Kochi is an ecclesiastical celebration of womanhood.Sunil Naliyath

For C.N. Karunakaran, a prominent figure of the ‘Madras School,' the long tryst with art has finally taken him to a new milestone. Karunakaran's untitled exhibition that got underway at David Hall Gallery in Fort Kochi last week is remarkable in the sense that it's the artist's fiftieth solo.

The journey that took off with landscapes more than four decades ago is now effortlessly traversing through ‘womenscapes' that are admirably appealing.

Mural traditions

“My maiden solo exhibition was at the Madras Centenary Hall back in 1968,” recalls the artist, who is the chairman of the Kerala Lalitakala Akademi. If the first solo contained landscapes and abstracts, the ongoing one is entirely based on figurines of varied dimensions with a character of its own that decode the very artistic journey of Karunakaran.

Over the years, a stylised figurative approach has transcended through his works. And the artist himself admits that the current scheme of things, which he follows in his works, is exactly the kind that he has always wanted to transmit through his brush strokes.

From abstract methodology adopted in the formative days to ones that strongly transpire Indian aesthetic ethos, the works reflect the mental modulations of Karunakaran who has grown up vividly watching the rich and colourful mural traditions of Kerala. “The umpteen traditional art styles that our country holds have plenty of inherent pristine beauty. The decorative style that I followed during much of my career was influenced by them. After my studies, as I worked under S. Srinivasalu at Madras, I could come in close contact with various traditional art styles in South India, which too was an eye opener. Any sincere attempt at change has to be gradual,” he adds.

As always, the lyrical charm of his current works on show is bound to fascinate even the most reluctant viewer. The celebration of the female anatomy is purely evident in each frame.

It also underlines the subtle deviation that the artist has made in his approach towards his characteristic style and pattern. Interestingly, the well-carved beauties oozing with sensuousness do not end up as mere exasperating profiles. Instead, they appear before the viewers as ecclesiastical beauties.

From landscapes to abstracts and then to a unique decorative style of his own, Karunakaran has come a long way and is rated as one of the most successful artists from Kerala.

When asked about the contemporary art scenario his response was rather spontaneous: “ Art has become very personal these days and unlike my generation, today's artists are very practical too.”

The exhibition is on till December 5.