Artists and art critics gathered on Saturday to celebrate the works of S. Dhanapal, master painter, sculptor, and former principal of College of Arts and Crafts in the city.
Art critic Dhenuka recalled Dhanapal’s numerous visits to his hometown of Kumbakonam, and an instance when he stopped the destruction of ancient murals during a temple festival. “He called Mylapore a swargabhumi and in a way, the place — a cultural hub even then — helped him become the multi-dimensional artist he was,” said Dhenuka.
A talk on the ‘Importance of Dhanapal’ was organised by K.M. Adimoolam Foundation for Arts. Dhanapal is famous for portrait sculptures of well-known personalities, and the list of those who sat for him include Periyar, Kamaraj, S. Radhakrishnan, Bharathidasan and G.R. Damodaran.
Dhanapal was so inspired by the dancing of Uday Shankar, that he, already a vocalist by then, learnt Bharatanatyam, and later Kathakali and Kathak too. “The dancer in him influenced his sketches which were mainly thin lines, drawn gracefully with abstraction,” said Dhenuka. Journalist A.S. Panneerselvam said the idea of the annual lecture was to bring out the nuances of the contributions of individual artists, and provide an occasion for commemorating art in a non-institutionalised way.
“For art to have a broader milieu, there is a need for it to thrive outside institutions and galleries and get into every day life,” he said. He said Dhanapal’s engagement with other forms of art, particularly with dance, was important. Here, dance is thought of in terms of Balasaraswathi and Rukmini Devi but the multidimensional aspect of Tamil Nadu dance traditions was finely captured by Dhanapal, he said.