The psychedelic images and yesteryear subjects in Rathee Ramani Iyer’s print-on canvas works, on view at Madras Square, are a flashback to the past

It is a nostalgia party, all right. The colours are bright and kitsch, the subjects are historic or from the depths of one’s memory. In a sense, Rathee Ramani Iyer’s works of art, titled Nostalgia Party, are straight from the heart. They are like psychedelic flashbacks that make you reach out for a book or for that old song that has been playing in your head for years.

Rathee has a fascination for history. It’s apparent in her print-on-canvas works. In one, an emerald-green woman is swathed in pearls. Floral patterns are embedded on either side of her, and the woman gazes at the stars in the night sky. But the entire image is like a fading memory – the more you see it, the more translucent the girl appears.

“My idea was to travel back in time through art. My works do not convey any strong messages so I won't even pretend that they do. I often collectively refer to them as “nonsense art”. What the viewer experiences is simply a sense of nostalgia. I call it Nostalgia Party because my aesthetic is essentially psychedelic and trippy. The vibrant colours, patterns and images used are in contrast to the sedate emotion of nostalgia,” says the artist.

Another work revolves around pop culture — Dancers frozen mid-step in what seems like a Roman temple with the sky forming a fiery orange backdrop. The pillars of the temples tower upwards to touch the stars. Other details include red-gloved hands holding chalices on top of the pillars on either side. Hands sheathed in green gloves are pouring things into the chalices. “I draw my inspiration from the colonial period, Mughal art and architecture, Indian royalty, Asian and Mediterranean cultures, cinema and popular culture. I often use botanical, mystic and celestial elements as accents in my work. Some works can be well referred to as esoteric,” adds Rathee.

Another work has hexagonal patterns all over the canvas. Of course, Mughal kings decked in royal finery are stamped throughout it. There is even a sepia piece of a group of people getting into a boat at the edge of a lake. In the distance, you see a royal palace. Psychedelic lotuses float all over the canvas, while the sky is a fantastical pink and purple. “The medium is digital because all the works are rendered on the computer. Printing on canvas enhances the image in terms of colour and depth,” she says.

Nostalgia Party will be on display at Madras Square, No.2/520, Sundeep Road, Neelankarai till June 25.