Gayatri Shantaram's paintings engage closely with the viewers' senses, evoking in them the comfort and familiarity of home

Walking around the Focus Art Gallery looking at Gayatri Shantaram's ‘Familiar Spaces' I was overcome with a strange and rather untoward urge; I wanted to break the sacred, tacit rule of art galleries — I wanted to touch one of the paintings.

Before scandal descends, let me hasten to assure you that I didn't. I wouldn't dare profane a work of art with my grubby hands, but I suspect I wasn't the first person to want to run a finger over the temptingly tactile grooves and ridges on the canvases in front me.

This very sensorial aspect of Gayatri's work beautifully complements her concept of ‘familiar spaces' that runs through the show. Inspired by her own move from Chennai to Paris, Gayatri's art touches on the delicate transitional phase of life one enters when between homes. “When I left to France, I wanted to take things with me that made me feel at home,” says Gayatri (who seems to have attained the ultimate artist's dream of living and making art in Paris), “I know the comfort items you take along with you will differ from person to person, but for me it was certain pieces of art. But this got me thinking, and in turn I wantedmywork to be something that evoked the comfort and familiarity of the home space in others”.

The viscous, industrial paints that Gayatri is partial to play a vital role in her evocation of the familiar, adding the tangible dimension to her work that enables it to engage so closely with the viewer's senses: you can almost hear the heavy smack of paint as it sinks down the canvas, and the smooth, spiralling glosses of colour are as inviting to the hand as the cool metallics are to the eye.

Reminiscent of Pollock

The thickly smeared and striated daubs of paint that adorn Gayatri's art are reminiscent of the work of the notorious Jackson Pollock, who rejected more conventional artistic processes to sling and pour his paints across his canvas. However, unlike Pollock's febrile crosshatches of colour, Gayatri's work tends to hone in on the more individual drops and streaks of paint; paying close attention to and experimenting with the textural properties of the materials she uses, her canvases convey a more demure and soothing energy.

Using her rich, sensuous paints with care and restraint, Gayatri's neutral abstractions invite a sense of affinity and familiarity between the viewer and the work and, instead of creating an art that reaches out to touch its viewer, her paintings achieve the impressive feat of makingyouwant to reach out and touchthem.

Gayatri Shantaram's ‘Familiar Spaces' will be featured at the Focus Art Gallery, 11 Bishop Wallers Ave (South), C.I.T. Colony, Alwarpet until November 29. For more details, call +914424986611 or visit www.focusartgallery.co.in

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012