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The words say it

Tarun Cherian's works do not live up to his elaborate and wordy expositions.

THE PROBLEM with Tarun Cherian's "The Moment of Creation", exhibited at the Chitrakala Parishath recently, is that it does not measure up in visual terms to its elaborate and wordy exposition. His verbal skills are obviously much stronger than his plastic ones. The experiences of his inner space and meditational visions he so ardently communicates in writing are not captured in concomitant pictographic expression in his "Symbolic Art".

The concepts he expresses are, of course, not new. Centuries ago they were formalised into symbolic universal forms, usually geometric, by exponents of yogic art and in tantric mandalas and yantras, arcane frames of reference intelligible to those privy to esoteric coded information.

The challenge to the contemporary artist is to formulate in visual terms a language that is capable of communicating such intimate visions, using some of the traditional symbols in new, meaningful and powerful ways, while also finding a personal language or idiom for the perennial philosophy.

While a lack of formal art training is not necessarily a disadvantage, in Tarun's case, it is not compensated by an instinctive grasp of structural and formalist orientation. The works lack compositional treatment of space, colour and line and are deficient in structure, being rather simplistic in conception and execution. Since the visual experience is insufficiently stylised, the work itself does not communicate the information it seeks to impart, the forms not eliciting the same direct experience from the viewer.

Colour is the most widely employed item of his pictorial repertoire. He relies on areas of colour to evoke figures and forms but there are few painterly passages to provide satisfying links. The larger works, particularly, have the quality of posters, again perhaps influenced by his advertising background. Against black backgrounds, the rather naïvely conceived images of the bindu, ripples or nadis stand out, painted in fiery colours - oranges, reds, and yellows. Lacking dynamic handling of any tense, tightly composed geometry of space division, and the insufficiency of compos-itional elements to satisfy aesthetically, at best they can be seen as illustrations deficit in the psychic power and cogency needed to set off tremors in the archetypal plates of the viewer.

Line is Tarun's strength as is evident in the smaller canvases such as I am the Fire, Drunk on the Light, and The Silent Flame. A certain dynamism is conveyed through the furious lines, as if the spirit were emanating in wisps of prana. There is also more energy in the smaller drawings, where line is predominant, giving them vibrancy.

He is also able to handle space better in the smaller format of squares, which are reminiscent of those appearing in some illustrated yoga tracts.

His digital prints are beautifully balanced and evocative, the best offerings in the exhibition.

Tarun's very articulation works against him. Without discounting the sincerity of his eagerness to share his mystical convictions, his keenness on expounding his views and beliefs, verbally or on paper, nonetheless appears as an attempt to sell his ideas. Ultimately, his art has to be judged for itself, and not in the light of his proclamations and unfortunately, the paintings cannot stand on their own, irrespective of their contents.


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