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Life of the lifeless

Sharath Kulagatti's paintings focus on objects of daily life, their changing profiles, varying purposes, and paradoxical transformations.

Stark colours enhance the mood

SHARATH KULAGATTI, whose exhibition titled ... And Life Will Go On concluded early this week, gets his inspiration from observing day-to-day life in general and objects at the construction sites and petrol bunks, in particular. His paintings, mainly acrylic or watercolour on paper, work on ordinary objects caught by an alert and observant eye.

There is a mood of anticipation — sometimes tense, and at other times, placid and quiet. One can also perceive a rhythm in these works, be it the petrol stations series of three paintings or the machine and other objects at construction sites. The composition is quite tight and colours stark. There are elements of abstraction that crop in now and then but in any case — and fortunately so — the paintings go beyond simple photographic reproduction possibilities.

The young artist, who completed his degree in Fine Arts from the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat in 2000 and went on to study on a freeship at the Kanoria Centre of Arts, Ahmedabad, confesses to have been attracted to objects of daily life, their changing profiles, varying purposes, and often paradoxical transformation. For instance, he sees the physical attributes of a petrol bunk undergoing a sea-change, even if the purpose of its being remains unaltered. The modern petrol bunk, with its swanky looks and colourful outlook, is also a symbol of blatant commercialisation that has crept into the urban life. The nozzle of the petrol dispenser, however, remains the same and the purpose cannot change, come what may. But the petrol tank, which stores the fuel, can either be a dusty, crusty barrel or sport a colourful attire to attract customers.

The three paintings in the series are set to create different moods and meanings. In the painting, Petrol Station II, Sharath portrays four fire buckets painted in red and yellow and hanging from the iron stand in a typical ready-to-use presence. Stark colours of green, blue, and black are added to the background to enhance the mood of disquiet anticipation. The same use of dense colours in Petrol Station III seems to serve a different objective of creating a mood of tension. The third painting in the series, Petrol Station, wears a more colourful, contemporary, and even glamorous look, symbolic of the marketing forces that seem to have come into play.

There are other paintings in the exhibition that attracts the viewer. The rendering of Iron Plates, for instance, is rugged, and even with the fair sprinkling of colours, they remain primarily dark, raw objects resting on a hard surface. There is a fabulously simple, good old iron box washed with hard colours, but still managing to hold attraction by its rendering of the wooden handle on the top and the heavy ironing base at the bottom. The composition is simple and tight. Other equally compelling images include the charcoal on paper rendering of the Concrete Mixer and several manipulations of machines used for construction purposes.

One striking feature in Sharath's paintings is that they totally lack in terms of a human form even as a mild and indirect reference point. There could be several advantages in using the what-meets-the-eye approach, but an unduly extended indulgence with inanimate objects could rob the essential human quality in some way.


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