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Updated: February 13, 2014 18:36 IST

Christ as inspiration

Lakshmi Krupa
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Christ: Muse for many
Christ: Muse for many

Through the works of a variety of artists — from Da Vinci and Dali to Jamini Roy and Paniker, an exhibition in the city traces the eternal appeal of Christ as an artist’s subject

“Over a millennium, Christ stands out as the most inspirational subject for artists and sculptors,” the brochure of the ongoing Christ Through The Millennium at Vinnayasa Premier Art Galery, as part of Art Chennai, announces. Indeed, the most recognisable and historically significant works of our times draw their inspiration from Christ.

Unique attempt

Taking a cue from Huffington Post’s 2011 Internet poll that sought to identify the 10 Best Paintings of Jesus Ever, Pradipta K. Mohapatra, member-Advisory Board, Art Chennai, has curated this new show, touted as the first attempt of its kind in India, featuring not just digital prints of the 10 best paintings but also paintings and sculptures of Indian artists who have worked with Christ as their inspiration. Indeed, it is quite something to walk into a gallery in Chennai and take in the (even if only as digital prints) iconic works such as the Christ Pantocrator (executed between 1090 and 1100 AD), 14th century artist Giotto De Bondane’s Madonna In Maest, Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Michelangelo’s Last Judgement and Salvador Dali’s Christ Of St. John On The Cross.

“It is not surprising that Jesus also occupied significant mindspace of several generations of Indian artists and sculptors. Jamini Roy clearly one of the earliest artists to paint the Christian them was quite prolific,” writes Mohapatra, in his note on the exhibit. KCS Paniker, Janaki Ram, Lakshmi Srinath, Perumal, Sthapathy, Ganesh Pyne, Yusuf Arakkal, C. Douglas, Thota Tharrani and P. Augustine are among the other artists whose works are included in the show. From the Christ’s humanity to his sacrifice, from the sacred to the mundane, from colours to black and white, the works on display offer a peek at the many ways in which Indian artists have embraced the Christ and the Bible to create their own interpretations.

Different interpretations

Thota Tharrani’s poignant reading of The Last Supper, Lakshmi Srinath’s work that features dark red kumkum on the cross, symbolising the Christ’s sacrifice and the yellow of the haldi as the halo, among others, housed together with the works of modern masters such as Jamini Roy and Paniker offers a rare insight into the way the Christian iconography has been read by Indian artists.

Ashrafi S. Bhagat, art historian and critic in her note on these works says, “Meditation with images through specific religious traditions as an image of the Christ, a segment of a biblical narrative, or a defining moment in the history of a religious community, has the capacity to impart power, and offer simultaneous aesthetic merit.”

Christ Through The Millennium is on till February 15 at Vinnyasa Premier Art Galery, CIT Colony.

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