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Radical mind, sweeping strokes

RECURRING IMAGES of a broken-down rail track carry grim connotations in T. A. Sathyapal's paintings. As a constant feature in his memory's landscape, he uses it here as a dynamic that he says "integrates India." Giving it a horrific explanation he adds, "Women, whether from Kerala, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu use it as a means to end their lives. It becomes an escape route from the hardships that characterise their existence." Their wretched subsistence in a highly male dominated society is only one of the many issues that this political activist delves into.

Being a leftist, Sathyapal is a self-disciplined man who does not attempt to disturb the established order. But this allegiance has many inherent pitfalls. Often it frustrates his endeavours and what he truly aspires. The canvas provides a catharsis. His friends, who refer to him as a radical artist, explain, "Whatever he is not able to achieve in the realm of politics, he puts across in his art."

For this social advocate in fact, painting becomes a medium wherein he can project his vision and make a signal for the future. An intermittent pattern in his works is that of `fences' which is reflective of the innumerable roadblocks that crop up and stymie development, both in his political and social life.

So overwhelming is the thematic content that every other aspect of his art is tiptoed around it, be it the colour scheme or technique. Under his skilful brushstroke, everyday sights are registered in a way that they provide both mystery and meaning. One of his works was done soon after December 13, when war clouds were looming large on the horizon. The canvas that assumed shape is a picture of gloom where the only constant is the manifold image of fear. The colours capture the violent mood of the time.

And that is what is so interesting about this self taught artist— his colours can be soothing when he paints serene landscapes, almost with an impressionist touch and filled with pathos when he portrays the hopelessness of situations. "Selection of colours is an unconscious activity in my work. It is the subject which decides it." Dark, threatening series of portraits of women is ominous and demonstrates a heavy touch of Munch, though the artist insists there are no influences here except his own experiences.

Sathyapal has been painting for exhibiting since the last eight years. His works were on display at the Durbar Hall Art Centre. None of them were titled, because the artist says he does not want to attach any references to his pictures. He leaves it to the viewer and his sensibility to generate his own meaning.


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