B.D. Dethan's ‘Parinamam-9' series is a clear departure from his previous pervious works with regards to his use of space and play with colour

Is ‘Parinamam-9,' artist B. D. Dethan's latest series of paintings, an attempt in seeking redemption from the ‘Kali' and ‘Mukhangal' phase of his artistic expression? The initial response to the frames on display at the Suryakanti Gallery was just this.

Never one to rely on beautiful images to please the eye, nor, soft tints that calm and soothe, one could not help locate a containment of the creative elements. The lines are clearly defined. The forms have mellowed. The colours have muted. But, it is an uneasy calm that prevails on the surfaces that are revealed in the frames. What has now revealed as creative expression is conditioned by imprints in the mind of traditional images – some totemic, yet others figurative.

While the clear shift in the use of space and play with colour is discernible, it does not take long to identify that in the course of this evolution in his style, the works still have a starkness, which are typical of Dethan's work.

A different feel

What exactly imbued the starkness to the frames? A re-look gave a different feel to the same frame. Often the search ended in a solitary eye, or a totem-like feature that lent more power to the work. It revealed a sense of the inimical and the foreboding.

What makes the present lot fascinating is the manner in which he executes his creativity. Dethan explains: “‘In Parinamam-9' I have super-imposed my images on a space which already had a picture on it. None of the conventional tools of a painter have been used here. With a blade I scratch the surface of the paper with varying degrees of pressure to remove the colours that already exist. Into those spaces I etch the lines and shade with oil pastels using my fingers or occasionally rely on the sharp edge of a knife or blade. Quite unlike a blank canvas that receives my palette of colours, I'm really carving out a space which is already pre-determined as far as colouration and manner of use is concerned, and transforming it into one that carries my visual language.”

Having devised his own method for achieving an integral unity in the use of space, by creating geometric units with forms and human figures situated in a manner so as to create a relationship between the figures, it becomes a notable element in many of the exhibits. The fantastic, quaint mask-like profiles jostle with human faces in an intriguingly outlined manner. Mere doodles in certain frames have a childlike like playfulness in the presence, whereas in yet others there is a gravitas that is encountered in the overall effect it creates.

It is intensities of the mind or society that materialise in ever so many ways, or else, can one explain how a picture transforms itself into an Osama look-alike with a powerful third eye located elsewhere in the work? The incongruent presence of a mermaid on the desert sands is yet another reflection of the ever present contradictions in life. It would be wrong to assume that the artist has expelled the surreal images of his earlier works because some of the features continue to relocate in ‘Parinamam-9.' Overtones of the subconscious, layered memories and dormant images in the mind's eye resurface as it were in the works. The exhibition is on till January 31.