Nature took the front seat at the Karuppu Art Collective’s exhibition

The snake-skin made us curious. The cigarette butts made us curiouser. The words in Tamil written using rice grains on handmade paper made us curiouser and curiouser. This was only natural, for we were at ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’, an art exhibition by the Karuppu Art Collective.

Organised as part of Art Chennai, the exhibition was held at the residence of Anitha and A.S. Panneerselvan at Cholamandal Artists’ Village. “This is an incubator rather than a gallery,” said Panneerselvan, speaking at the inauguration. “We wanted to open up space for artists who wished to get a peer review.”

The exhibition had works of artists from the Collective — Aparajithan Adimoolam, Chandru. G, Ebenezer Sunder Singh, Krishnapriya C.P., Maria Antony Raj, Michael Irudayaraj, Natesh Muthuswamy, Narendran K., and Sharmila Mohandas.

Krishnapriya, the youngest member of Karuppu, explored the damage man and development have caused to the eco-system through her works of art. She touched upon eco-feminism, man’s mindless consumption of wildlife products and the decay the environment is experiencing through her “visual metaphors”.

Artist Narendran had painted threatened birds and animals on an object associated with art that has been equally pushed to the brink — the palette. “Not many artists use it today…it is almost extinct,” explained the artist. The Great Indian Bustard, black buck, white-rumped vulture, king cobra, and the Nilgiri tahr, among others marched on wooden palettes.

Has man forgotten Nature? Narendran asked this question through his painting of a man smoking away as a caterpillar inched towards him. “The insect is Nature’s way of saying that she is ready to talk to him,” he explains.

Narendran has also done interesting work with rice grains and cigarette butts. He has glued the words ‘Unnum ovvoru arisiyilum unadhu ammavin peyar porikkap pattulladhu — You mother’s name is engraved on every rice grain you eat’ on a notebook of handmade paper wrapped in hay. The cigarette butts have been employed to assemble the word ‘Cliché’. He has even used snake skin to form the word ‘knowledge’. “Knowledge keeps evolving. Much like snake skin that re-grows every time the old one is shed,” he says.

Michael Irudayaraj narrates the story of a family at a dining table, cursed with a spoon too long to be used to eat through his two paintings titled ‘Hell and Heaven’. But his best work is the sculpture of a ceramic saucer with a bowl filled with tiny figures of baby ducks. “I was once an expatriate in Burma. I remember using a lot of such bowls back then,” he recalled. The ducks are from a recent time — “We rear them in our house,” he adds. The two objects from his memory have been recalled to create a stunning piece of art. He has aptly titled it ‘Cup of Joy’.