There's profundity and play as Thota Tharrani captures the oil wells of Texas in the first of his series on “USA through the eyes of an Indian artist”

Black gold and colourful canvases. This sums up Thota Tharrani's latest outing with the brush and easel for the first of his series on “USA through the eyes of an Indian artist.”

“When I first visited Texas over a decade ago, it was the landscape that stroked my imagination. Vast dry lands filled with imposing oil wells formed stunning silhouettes against the backdrop of a colourful sky at sundown. That was the spur.”

The huge oil wells with their nodding pump-jacks, a dynamic symbol of oil production in Texas, bring out the visual energy of the artist in unexpected ways. The subject is repetitive, but the colours and expressions are varied. Having taken something that's real and broken it down into abstracts, Tharrani's work commands intensive viewing. His sharp-eyed observation of the fluidity of the rotary rigs, their different movements, the angles… is captured with sweeping strokes. The way the geometric patterns cut into lush splashes of colour lends fluidity to the work.

“As an artist, Texas evoked a strong feeling in me. It isn't the typical picture-perfect landscape tourists expect to see or the America we are exposed to in sci-fi films. It left an indelible impression in my mind's eye,” says the artist.

There's profundity and play in the way Tharrani handles Texas. On the one side there's a serious subtext illustrating the artist's environmental concerns relating to barrens landscape dotted with oil wells, pollution and imminent exhaustion of natural resources. On the other hand, his visual grammar is smile-inducing. His trademark colour scheme of charcoal, earthy brown, turmeric and red are perfect for the size and scale of his canvases. Robust lines and forceful colours are the stars. All you need is agile eyeballs to navigate the extensiveness of his work.

“The oil wells are a mystery of sorts. They left me thinking about the depleting resources and the significance of oil in today’s world. My painting is part of a quest to understand what it is like for us to have certain things wiped out from the face of this world. The oil wells are a metaphor of change.”

“My first visit to the U.S. was in 1990, on invitation from the USIA in Chennai. I was scared! I’ve always imagined the U.S. to be a land futuristic films are made of. When I criss-crossed the country, several images caught my interest. I was fascinated by the beauty, vastness and abundance and affluence. I returned with mental notes of the different terrains of the country. Following that, I've visited the U.S. several times on work. My exposure went beyond fancy supermarkets, well-anointed museums and skyscraper buildings. I was able to look at the quaint and offbeat sides of America as well. The repertoire of images captured by my mind's eye grew by the day. So I decided to do an entire series. Texas is just the beginning of a prolonged artistic journey.”

The exhibition, “USA Through the eyes of an Indian artist” – Texas (curated by Nirupama Santhosh), was inaugurated at ITC Sheraton Park Hotel and Towers, by Andrew T. Simkin, former U.S. Consul General in Chennai. The exhibition is open to public at Focus Art Gallery, till August 20.

Keywords: Thota Tharrani

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