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Abstract colour formations

Visual art has its own language, logic and rhythm. This sums up painter K.Damodaran's vision, which finds expression through the language of abstraction. His works are on show at Vinyasa Gallery till February 28.

IN HIS paintings the colour relationships, as they interact with the rectangle and within the space, set up a gentle rhythmic pulsation.

Abstract art in the present century still remains a challenge as well a preferred mode of expression for many artists. It has not lost its `aura' despite a vast gamut of technological and other media available for creative exploration.

One such veteran whose privileged mode of creative statement is abstraction has returned to Chennai after a hiatus of almost 20 years. K. Damodaran, who is at present, showing his abstract works at the Vinyasa Art Gallery till February 28 is an alumnus of the Government College of Fine Arts (name changed from Government College of Arts and Crafts) having graduated in painting in 1966.

Damodaran is an economics graduate from Tellicherry (Kerala) and was slated to be a lawyer — an ambition of the patriarch — but instead joined the art institution much against parental wishes in 1960. His artistic pedagogy was firmly informed since he had gleaned historical knowledge on art from books and other sources, allowing an active engagement in debating and discussing varied dimensions of modern art that K.C.S. Paniker initiated among his students.

Damodaran did not actively subscribe to the `nativist' argument set in momentum by Paniker in the 1960s. And, in this respect, he strikes a posture of difference with the others among the group that constituted veterans Anthony Doss, S. G. Vasudev and V. Viswanathan to mention a few.

Taking pride in the fact that he was exceptional in rendering human forms and studies of landscape and flora and fauna, he was creatively aided in this endeavour by Paniker whose pedagogy stimulated a different approach and method of employing line as an expressive tool. This fundamental notion of privileging the line has remained within the Madras Group and Damodaran was no exception.

Abstraction as a formal visual language became inevitable for the artist when he reached a point of saturation in the academic exploration of the perceptual-empirical world. His avowed interest in the modern European art movements particularly Impressionism, Postimpressionism, Cubism and German Expressionism held great fascination, particularly their methods and approach in conceptualisation and technical explorations. His predilection towards the West could also be understood as an intervention away from the indigenist argument that Paniker was proselytising.

In his abstract language, Damodaran is energetic and gestural. His coloured strokes either with brush or palette knife are traces of rectangles, squares or biomorphic forms, defined in their spatial relations with each other.

They either float towards us or away in a shallow space. The painting becomes both a focus for the spectator's meditations and a screen before a mystery. Damodaran is also a rhetorician and by this is implied the deliberate use of vague, expansive, generalised forms. His paintings become a riot of lush paint and sweet colour. These colour relationships, as they interact within the space, set up a gentle rhythmic pulsation.

Automatism and chance play an important part in Damodaran's paintings. One can offer an existentialist interpretation of his abstract works by emphasising the individual's soul and spirituality. This is a practice revealing artists' `interiority'. Traditional theories and supporting practices have maintained that the emotions are the preserve of the individual and this augments well for Damodaran's works, particularly his exploration through schema of colours.

Damodaran in working each of his canvases, he brings to it a new experience.

And this makes his abstract creations singularly individualistic and different, since the canvases are not consanguine, as one does not feel a familial link with the next and the other. His colours range from warm to cold and from stark contrasts to pale and pastel lucidities. Working within such a gamut, Damodaran evolves his specifities and generalities. His blocks of colours and knife strokes construct a geometry that is one of impulses and gestural rhythms.

His art has the logic of structure, the logic of gesture and material. His works bear affinity to international abstractionism, particularly of the European schools.

His abstractions are culture specific as "there is always a conscious absorption of environment" and a play of automatism dictates his spiritual search.

Literary references or narratives were done away and in this process of negating references or allowing reductive imagery to play a role in his creative statements, Damodaran comes across as a formalist in the Greenbergian tradition of pursuing purity in his art. This implies his vision, which emphasises, "Visual art has its own language and its exclusive logic and rhythm".

But philosophical questions plague him concerning the mysteries of `creation, death, and the vast, unexplored galaxy'. In search for answers, he turned to the Vedanta, the Gita, Buddhist philosophy, discourses by Aurobindo and S. Radhakrishnan, including the Western philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.

An artist deeply embedded in questioning the mysteries of the universe, it becomes a logical process for him to abandon representational imagery and seek the noumen of space through the language of abstraction.


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