Two artists’ impressions of life in the city

We take our realities for granted until change comes a-calling. Between The Lines, on at Apparao Galleries, features the works of S. Nataraj and Sanjeeva Rao, two artists trying to negotiate change as they moved from their hometowns in rural hinterlands to urban India. The paintings on display have a mythical quality while detailing a sense of un-belonging. While Sanjeeva’s work tackles power, that is the very lifeline of urban living, and the associated elements of violence with the use of chairs and tails, S. Nataraj works on the themes of alimentation and disorientation.

Their two seemingly different worlds soon collapse, and as you walk around the gallery, the paintings come together and paint a much larger picture. Suddenly the juxtaposition of their works makes more sense. If Sanjeeva’s chairs have tails — the higher the chair, the longer the tail, Nataraj’s canvases are filled with flying birds, rooted animals and floating men. A note at the exhibit reads, “The self is what we know the most intimately. Yet this self is connected to the rest of the world, like a silken thread in the fragile web of life, through a multitude of interconnections and shared experiences. While the tree cannot be mistaken for the woods, the self offers a good vantage point to study the rest of humanity. Between The Lines  is an engaging show of two such young artists from Andhra Pradesh whose works evolve from a personal perspective to create enduring testimonies of our current times. Both artists share a similar background in that they received their education in Andhra Pradesh and Bangalore and lived in the latter city for a period negotiating not only their move from a rural environment to the city but also becoming acutely aware of notions of belonging and home.” 

Sanjeeva brings together seemingly unrelated elements (stars, zebra, a long scooter, men lined up on it carrying gas cylinders and flags) and creates a stunning range of portraits. The most awe-inspiring one is a collection of six portraits placed right next to each other to create one large canvas. There is chaos as well as clarity. There are pehelwan-like men with long tails arm-wrestling; a large hat sits precariously on a small head… A world of satire that reminds one of Orwell as well as Panchatantra. Which is also the feeling Nataraj’s works evoke. A burst of colours with birds, animals, trees, rootless homes and humans all coming together to create a netherworld. Where you exist only as a floating immigrant, sometimes hanging on to the tail of an elephant, and at others, wearing an elephant mask for a face…

Between The Lines is on till November 30 at Apparao Galleries.