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Colourful retrospective

Intrepid use of colour and strokes mark Thota Tharani's collection of paintings, which are on display at Ashvita on Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai, till April 4.

A RETROSPECTIVE of well-known artist Thota Tharani, showcasing some of his works from 1969 to date, is an inimitable opportunity to peruse so many of his paintings under one roof. It is interesting that all his works seem to be responses to his sojourns in various parts of the world and his experiences there. A single moment sparks off a series of works that begin at the crux of his experience and then move on with a life of their own. Tharani's `Symphony' series, begun in 1976, was a response to Western Classical music. Each painting was created by his translation and interpretation of sounds into visual form and colour.

The series of paintings titled `Force' is based on the elucidation of Nature in all her fury, supported by an intense palette and vigorous sweeping strokes that suggest incensed movement. Kinetic energy is epitomised in the swift motions of the brush, tracing the surging path of power onto the canvas. The gestural element is recorded as being resplendent with dynamic vitality and yet thoroughly spontaneous. `Force' later evolved into the motif of the `Window' with the arcs and curves of the former being substituted with flat, square expanses of colour delineated with a thick edging of paint. Tharani's `Rajasthan' series captures the earthy desert tones that mingle enthusiastically with the brilliant hues of traditional clothing to achieve vivid compositions. In these paintings, his signature motif of the peacock in rich purples and violets adds character. The element of design occupies paramount position with his subjects complying to suit the scale of things.

His work as an art director has formed a major part of his contribution to the Chennai cinema scene, having worked on more than a hundred projects including such major movies as "Anjali", "Nayagan", "Thalapathi", "Kaadhalan" and "Indian" among others. His artwork and sketches for cinema sets and costumes reveal a fastidious attention to detail and an almost mimetic conceptualisation of the final imagery. Also forming part of this exhibition are rarely seen pencil sketches, which are indeed works of art in their own right. Choosing to portray simple objects in everyday settings, he exploits the graphic medium with his fine mastery of line.

His latest series is based on the words `carpe diem' meaning `seize the day' and meant to complement a range of watches from Rado of Switzerland. These paintings reminisce the colours from his `Symphony' series, but incorporate the march of time by the reminder of the divisions of time on the clock face.

The strength of Thota Tharani's prolific output lies not merely in his intrepid use of colour and brushstrokes but also in his innate sense of design. Vibrancy and energy are ubiquitous, truly reflecting his personality, with his visual phraseology constituting simplicity of expression fused with a forceful impact. The exhibition is on at Ashvita, 11 Second Street, Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai, Mylapore, until April 4.


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