Preetha Kannan’s Gaia, created using dots, expresses her concerns about our changing environment

Walking into a room that holds Preetha Kannan’s canvases is much like walking into a forest with the view changing every few inches, as every new image transports us to a new landscape. Her photorealistic art, painstakingly created with layer after layer of paint using dots, is inspired by the technology that we see on our computer screens.

Titled C, her latest show progresses in its ecological concerns from the theme of trees on to mangroves. “In this exhibit, I have introduced my works on mangroves along with the earlier ones about trees. I live right in front of one and that’s what inspired the art,” Preetha explains.

Different hues

Using shades of the same colour within each canvas, Preetha creates paintings that look like photographs. “I clicked pictures wherever I went — the mangrove paintings for instance are of the ones in Pichavaram — and then used them as reference while painting,” she adds.

Preetha’s work is a commentary on the fast disappearing mangroves that are so essential for maintaining ecological balance around coastal regions. “Mangroves symbolise life and protection,” she says. Her pre-occupation with the environment stems from her deep involvement with the likes of Medha Patkar and Baba Amte and working on restricting the height of the dam on Narmada.

“I would like anyone looking at these works to feel peaceful,” Preetha says about her paintings. “Feel disconnected from their stressful lives and feel as if they can get lost in those woods in the painting.” Indeed, the woods come alive in Preetha’s digital-inspired works of art. “If you were to look with a magnifying glass, what looks like just a one-layered photograph from a distance, will contain dots and colours one over another,” she avers.

Preetha’s paintings in the near future will continue to focus on the elements of the Earth - soil, air, water, fire and sky. “I am planning work next with cityscapes with mangroves. Where do we have space for them any more with all this development work in cities?” Preetha asks and adds, “And then I will be working on my underwater series.”

(The exhibition is on till December 8 at Apparao Galleries, No. 7, Wallace Gardens, 3rd Street, Nungambakkam)