Vikram Varghese's ‘Windows and Doors', captures historic architecture in a series of nostalgic vignettes

Painting old doors and windows seems to be something of a trend in the art world these days, with C. Pandi Selvam's series at the art festival Paalam, and Santhana Krishnan's well-known and colourful documentation of suburban doors. Working with bright, bold acrylics, both Selvam and Krishnan's work evoke the vibrant multifariousness of India.

Vikram Varghese's series, simply titled ‘Windows and Doors', at the Gallery Sri Parvati (till February 3) takes a somewhat different approach. Working mainly with watercolours, and occasionally pen and ink, Varghese captures historic architecture in a series of nostalgic vignettes.

“I love water colours,” says Varghese “and I like to work in meticulous detail — which is very important. Water colour is a difficult medium: however much you try to control its flow, it follows its own path — and that is the essential beauty of the medium.” There is a distinctly meandering quality to Varghese's work. The colours he uses are faded and fluid — I believe him when he says that he allows them to move and flow to their own will, rather than his. The edges of his images often trail into undefined borders, and many are small fragments of a larger picture that lies beyond the bounds of the frame.

“Walking through the narrow lanes of Kolkata and Chennai for compositions gave me immense pleasure,” says Varghese, “What captivated me most were the old arched windows and doors with fret-work.”

The pleasure Varghese has gained from his travels is evident in the creation of this series, which is accompanied by a heavy but not unhappy sense of nostalgia — although the paintings do yield to a mild melancholy; the fragmentary nature of Vargherse's work evokes the sense of memories, or even dreams, of a halcyon past, but within their visual idyll is also the recognition of decay and dilapidation. Alongside the outline of an intricate trellis, or elaborate fret-work is accented the discolouration of the walls, or the falling away of bricks, which are accented by darker, bleeding water colours .

This series is a mixture of beauty and decay — in fact, it finds the beauty in decay — its gaze exults in the beautiful whilst looking back wistfully at the vestiges of the past that isn't quite preserved, but is optimistic of its resurrection on paper. And walking around the gallery, I imagine Varghese crouched over his canvas the way an archaeologist might be positioned over a rare artefact — dusting lightly over the skeletons of the past with his brush, uncovering its splendour with each stroke whilst also mourning its demise.

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012