Event: ‘The Madras Canvas in Short’ is reflective of the kaleidoscope of artistic talent in the city. The show features the works of stalwarts of the Madras movement and fresh talents.

The Madras Canvas, Forum Art Gallery’s annual exhibition, which has become an integral part of Madras Week celebrations, returns for the third year in a row as ‘The Madras Canvas in Short’. The works at the show are being presented in small format this year (hence the change in moniker), but that doesn’t mean it’s any smaller in scale — taking up two levels at the gallery, it features the works of a whopping 54 city-based artists.

“Madras Canvas has grown bigger and bigger each year, just like the Madras Day grew to become Madras Week, and by the looks of it, will soon become Madras Month!” said S. Muthiah at the recent launch of the exhibition.

‘The Madras Canvas in Short’ isn’t so much Madras-themed as it is reflective of the kaleidoscope of artistic talent in the city, featuring the works of stalwarts of the Madras Movement and fresh up-and-coming talents alike in a colourful, quintessentially Chennai mix of the traditional and the modern.

“The city’s artists have their own individual style and distinctive ways of expression, but have developed a special Madras-city idiom, which comes from taking in its sights (which range from the artistic to the garish) and sounds, its early-to-bed-early-to-rise ways and its strong iconography of prominent figures,” said N. Ravi, Editor of The Hindu, at the launch. “In this milieu, great art has emerged.”

That special something that marks Chennai’s art scene is on ample display at the exhibition, with an array of works by the who’s who of the city’s artists.

From the brilliantly coloured abstracts of M. Senathipathi to the spare portraits of K.V. Haridasan, C. Dakshinamoorthy’s voluptuous charcoal sketches of Indian femininity to Douglas C.’s symbolic ‘Poet and Butterflies’ series, from Achuthan Kudallur’s gorgeously textured works in warm, earthy tones to R.B. Bhaskaran’s rustic ‘Still life’ and K. Muralidharan’s colourful folk-art inspired series, from Thota Tharrani’s ‘Symphony of Earth’ awash in bold colour to A.V. Ilango’s village scenes flowing with energy.

Distinctive strokes

And the list goes on — Richard Jesudoss, P. Gopinath, Rm. Palaniappan and P.S. Nandan — as the works of some of Chennai’s most influential artists rub shoulders, their each distinctive stroke defining, in a sense, the foundations of the city’s artscape.

The constant evolution of that artscape is also evident in the works by younger artists, ranging from Ramalingam’s multicoloured, chaotic Chennai street scenes to Kavitha Prasad’s watercolours exploring forgotten spaces, from Monika Ghurde’s ‘Superstar’ series capturing Chennai’s iconic political posters to B.O. Sailesh’s series on yogis and meditation.

If Lakshmi Srinath’s rustic wood and acrylic ‘Etched in Time’ series pays homage to old-world games such as Aadu Puli Aattam, Suresh Kumar S.’ vinyl on acrylic ‘Deception’ series is aggressively modern in composition and style. The works of Manisha Raju, Krishnapriya, Thejo Menon, Swapna Reddy, Razia Tony and Shalini Biswajit explore a number of themes from femininity and reproduction to relationships and the human condition, even as cartoonists Keshav and Biswajit Balasubramanian capture the humour inherent in daily city life.

Oils, acrylics and watercolours, mixed media, ink and charcoal, photographs and cartoons, sculptures and reliefs in wood and bronze — ‘The Madras Canvas in Short’ is nothing if not a study in vibrant variety. The exhibition is on at Forum Art Gallery until October 3.