K.Sridar presents a slice of village life in an exhibition titled ‘Among Us’

Life could not be more ordinary than that at his village at T.R. Palayam, on the outskirts of Villupuram, in Tamil Nadu, says artist K. Sridar. In this rustic environs, in what is “only a little more than a scattering of 200-odd huts”, temples and paddy fields, cows, arecanut trees, age-old stories and traditions, and uncomplicated dreams, thrive. To Sridar, this peaceful, green oasis is the fertile ground that fostered his imagination on canvas. The artist is in the city this fortnight, bringing with him a slice of life in the village, in an exhibition of paintings titled ‘Among Us’. The exhibition is on at La Gallery 360.

“All the 35 or so paintings – mostly acrylics – are reflections of my experience and my experience with nature, which co-exist in harmony with each and every aspect of life in the village. While some of the experiences and perceptions are more recent, some such as childhood adventures of playing in the fields and nicking threshed grain with my buddies, have been in my mind for years, often surprising me when they burst out of its recesses. I believe that art is nothing without experience. When something as intensely personal as an experience or a perception becomes public, then it is art,” says Sridar.

Sridar, who holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Pondicherry and a master’s from Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai (formerly Madras School of Art), was inspired to take up the brush and palette after watching his late father, Kannan, a temple artist, at work at the local Mariyamman Kovil. “He used to work with enamel paints. He didn’t know of any other medium. In fact, none in the village is still familiar with art per se. I am an anomaly, in that sense. Appa’s was art at its simplistic best, moulded by tradition, uninfluenced by the world or processes outside the village,” says Sridar.

And it is this inherent simplicity that is the hallmark of Sridar’s works too. Each painting appears to be a flow of bold lines and colours and luminous eyed-figures juxtaposed against a miasma of colours. A few are abstracts, with seemingly hidden complexities, easy to understand – once the reticent Sridar explains in his heavily Tamil-laced English. Particularly fascinating are the one titled ‘Ancestors’, which depicts our relationship with tradition and another that captures the joy that nature brings to relationships. Many, especially the smaller works, though, are fairly straightforward, at once simple as they are complex – those of Mariyamman, the local deity, Kamadhenu, the divine cow in Indian mythology, a mother and her child watched over by ghosts of generations past, a tribal woman that the artist chanced upon on a visit to the Nilgiris settlements, and a series of landscapes (inspired by views of the extensive paddy fields in the village as seen from his backyard), being examples.

“My art keeps changing with time and mood,” says Sridar, who is part of an informal artists’ collective called ‘We 5’ that comprises four other young artists – Ezhilarasan, Vengatesh, Trinavukarasu and Dhanashekar, all from and inspired by rural Tamil Nadu. All of them have exhibited their works (as solos and/or group) in various places across India, including the Jehangir Art Gallery.