‘Island’, the ongoing show at Classic Art Gallery, Jew Town, revisits the works of seven well-known artists from Kerala and their strong bond with their land
A revisit is such a pleasure. It rakes up feelings left behind. Revisiting an author, a poet, a film, a painting, a song or an artist often leaves viewers with a more defined sense of the subject and tender nostalgia. ‘Island’ the ongoing show at Classic Art Gallery, Jew Town, Mattancherry, is revisiting seven well-known artists from Kerala, who have traversed a fairly good distance but are still works in progress. The best is yet to come and hence they are keenly watched.
Bijoy Velekkat, curator of the show, places the seven literally on an island, isolating them and their expressions from the rest of the best and showcases their works that are connected with the earth. Views about my land, he says, interpreting the title of the show.
Rajan Krishnan’s ‘Constellation’ is a mosaic of six small works, each a direct and straightforward narrative on Kerala. Together the six are like six chapters of a novel telling a story of his State.
Rajan of late has reverted to his early days when he used to paint miniatures, the smallest being a stamp-size work (2003). He then moved on to large canvases and has currently reverted to work on small dimensions. “I like to explore spaces,” is his refrain. In Constellation, he says that the idea was to create a large space using small works. Each work engages with a local motif, something that Rajan has consistently done.
Thrissur based sculptor –painter T.P. Premjee comes strongly through his sculptures. ‘The Whispering Earth’, a flock of ducks in bronze, is a rustic, warm image seen commonly in rural Kerala. It is by far the most striking work, for its sheer strength in simplicity. The ‘Contemplating Man’ is another work by him in bronze. ‘Sensations’, an asymmetrical diptych in flaming red and orange, is an eye-catching canvas focussing on the midriffs of women in a ritualistic procession. Its organic sensuality connects directly with the cycle of life. Premjee in his initial works was inspired by the novelty of the Radical painters, one of who, Alex Mathew, is part of the show.
An avant-garde sculptor, Alex Mathew’s single work-‘Sources of Energy on Akira Kurosawa’, a work in soft pastels on paper is deeply impacting. The yellow at one corner of the work, in contrast with the grey shading of the figure, clearly pitches forth the burning issue of energy crisis.
Zakkir Hussain’s work ‘Study for prolonged Hours of Disfigured Situations’, is made up of five works. It is an elaborate study on the conflicts that currently riddle our society. Figures, images and text intertwine in a mesh that vividly conveys the ills that plague society. Suicide, mental issues, debts, dowry are just some of the subjects that the artist addresses. Done in crayons, pencils, water colours the five frames are acerbic and hard hitting.
Santhan N.V.’s untitled works are done in pencil on paper. Santhan is a self-taught, informally trained artist, who worked with K.P. Krishnakumar, one of the leading radical artists from Kerala and studied at Shantiniketan. His preoccupation with nature and earth underline most of his works. Here too his love for nature comes through clearly.
Baroda-based artist Prasad K.P.’s untitled big works are related to the earth in an indirect way. A majestic antelope, a distant moon, soft blue waves and a fairy like lady at one end of the canvas is a magical take on what earth means to the artist.
One of the leading contemporary artists of Kerala, Bhagyanath C., has shown nationally and internationally. His compelling narratives yoke the rural with the urban, the allegorical with the real in deeply impressive canvases. In ‘Self Portrait’, he is helmeted with a fierce cat like animal peering from behind.
‘Secret Dialogue’, his work comprising four canvases, draws viewers into the conflicting mind of the protagonist. The lone charcoal figure on single tone acrylic background, superimpose other figures denoting the inner self or the alter ego. The animal –man imagery is another common leitmotif in Bhagyanath’s works. A small and mature show ‘Island’ concludes on February 10.
Keywords: Bijoy Velekkat