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Surreal, wild imageries

IF GOPIKRISHNA'S exhibition that got underway on New Year's Eve is anything to go by, then the year bodes well for the art scene in the city.

Gopikrishna's craft is impeccable, the drawings solid, the colouring sharp and the account fascinating. The paintings, done in oil on canvas are large, and it's difficult to resist searching for meaning in a collection that is surreal, layered with wild imageries.

`Turtle Hatchery,' a canvas that lends its title to the entire display, is reflective of his own doubts and hesitancies and his ability to reconcile the underlying conflicts. He explores his family roots, searching for the common thread that binds them together. The relaxed posture of his uncle as he watches the nurturing process is far removed from that of a young man (Gopi himself?) trapped in a tower, essaying to get out. Meanwhile, the sea and in fact all of nature, focuses on this creative process, as a weary ancestral spirit gets down to work.

His works are autobiographical. The central character is no ordinary onlooker. He casts himself away from the others, sometimes perching himself atop a tree in the midst of fish and scorpions maintaining his distance from others and a mastery over his world. Is he is an egoist or an outcast? In `Eternal Family' he assumes his role as a family man but his naked state, as against that of his wife and child, denotes his separateness; the birds that peer out of his eye sockets indicate that his visions are not entirely in his control and fly freely to accommodate a space of their own. He is no doubt the head of the family; books containing Egyptian paintings that affirm the supremacy of the pharaoh are strewn around the room.

Gopikrishna began his series on animals titled `The Cabinet of the Feasting Cat' as a visual fantasy representing his fears, insecurities and the play between good and evil. A custom often followed in South India is that of providing food for the ancestors, which is laid out on a banana leaf and left outside the house precincts where the animals and birds can have access to it. The feasting cat is therefore a rather morbid thesis but later in the series the artist alters tack as he strives to bring some kind of balance by painting a couple of harmless, even humorous pictures of reptiles and frogs.

Gopikrishna has an intuitive manner in the handling of colour and imagery. There's a fundamental design in distorting the creatures; juxtaposed with elements of nature they possess a reality of their own and occupy their own space. `Turtle Hatchery,' on at the Kashi Art Café, Fort Kochi, closes on January 17.


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