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A unique painting camp

`Vizag Sojourn', the fourth successive painting camp organised by Tunty Chauhan of Threshold Gallery from March 2 to 8 at the Waltair Club provided a unique platform for well-known artists from across the country to interact and work together in the city, as well as share their concerns through interactive slide shows with people at large. This time around, there was a galaxy of noted names of contemporary Indian art scene like T Vaikuntam of Hyderabad, Vasundhara Tewari Broota and Rameshwar Broota from New Delhi, Natraj Sharma and Anandjit Ray from Baroda and Shibu Natesan, who lives and works in Baroda and London, too.

Two young artists, Sudip Ghose and Sadhu Surya Rao, participated in the show.

Vasundhara and Rameshwar use and depict the human body, albeit in divergent ways. While the latter's male bodies are often powerful and muscular with undercurrents of threatening sexuality hinting at some kind of coiled power and force, Vasundhara's use of the female body, often nude, is at total variance. Here the image is often depicted in or along with lush vegetation suggesting vulnerability and lyricism.

At this workshop, Vasundhara has done a landscape that provides a sense of space. It is very subdued and gives an overall feeling of serenity, seeking to take one away from the humdrum of urban life. There are six straight unbroken lines on which stands a cow which symbolises heaven or perfection. The medium is oil on canvas with metalica.

Vaikuntam is well known for his depiction of sensual Telangana women in all their colourful finery, often convoluted with dark rustic bodies. He still retains his attraction for rural simplicity. His `Pundit' has lescolour, is of simple technique and with clear control on the line and a fairly strong white colour scheme. Pundit, scholar or poet has always fascinated him since childhood. "My learned man is a humanitarian person,'' he says.

Shibu, who is a great admirer of the romantic German painter, Fredrich Casper, has an amazing ability to quote and use imagery and iconography across cultures and civilizations using the language of photo realism. From M K Gandhi to Bob Marley to Patrick Lumumba, his work traverses a wide gamut of historical figures and events, imagined and known, depicted with a cool élan. His painting trajectory has included, among other things, history, politics and culture and he has a great interest in landscape. "Whatever is familiar to me I want to introduce to the world through my work and through various images I try to come to grips with my existence." He uses a very old language of painting to speak on contemporary subjects. He does not use many modern devices and believes in the hand painted and totally manual approach. "My humanism in a sense resides there. Painting is for me self-realisation. It gives me a lot of clarity without which I would be lost, confused," he adds disarmingly.

Natraj was trained as applied artist and turned to painting later. His earlier work dealing with pop imagery and kitsch soon gave way to dark, bleak landscapes of our industrial urban spaces. A very versatile artist using a multitude of media like digital photography, collage, computer imagery and different forms of painting, he is still able to retain his passion for the potency of the painted image and not be seduced by the technical tools at his disposal. His recent work delves into both violence as well as an exploration of childhood memories and innocence.

At this camp, Natraj has got back to certain fundamentals as it were - looking, observing, drawing and eventually painting - the very basics one needs to master before a work can be produced. This he proceeded to do in the form of a realistic drawing by holding a sketchbook and looking and drawing a neat, self-contained image. A parallel description of what he has done would be about a person opening a book and start "reading a story about a writer writing". There is a picture of an artist in the process of making a painting. The medium is oil on canvas with enamel paint also. Initially, Natraj wanted to make a drawing but then thought it would be too bare. He then gave it some tonality, but even this he felt too insipid. Finally, he painted blocks of colour, in variations of gray, which gave the work weight and substance.

Rather than proceed in a pre-ordained manner, Anandjit Ray's water colour gouache on paper has fit in as many perspectives as possible. His colour-intensive work is a construction of images in bright red, a little ochre, white and black with various elements like a heart-like object, a cigarette, matches, a bomb blast and fingers controlling a string that turns into a drawing of a human figure. The visual language is both meaningful and interspersed with idiosyncratic plain forms. Ray has used surreal devices and images from TV and cinema apart from naturalistic sources.

Sudip Ghose has depicted a nude male body behind a curtain with a bright background. Done in acrylic, dry pastel and charcoal on canvas, the painting also has free-floating playing cards with different facial expressions. Sadhu Surya Rao, a former student of the Andhra University Fine Arts Department and Kala Bhawan, Shantiniketan continues to show his fascination for decorative imagery using fish and flowers as motifs. Done in mixed media, the work has two fishes in seeming conversation with a net overhead. The colours are bright and this is part of his continuing series.


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