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Reinventing the unattractive

SIVASANKARAN IS a dyed-in-the-wool lens man who makes a determined bid to entail the art of photography with that of painting. For his current display, that concluded at the Durbar Hall gallery recently, he came armed with a stack full of large sized photographs which have been worked on with a thin brush and a morbid palette. As a child he recalls staring doggedly at a surface, sometimes even the stars, until shapes flew out of it; over the years he didn't allow these silhouettes to dissipate. Now, he freely uses these in his illustrations.

A tree rises up majestically and somewhere on its twisted trunk the artist paints a series of cheerless, unknown faces seemingly from the netherworld.

In effect, these faces are the ubiquitous motifs that stitch together this collection of works. His themes are commonplace yet not hackneyed: the gnarled shaft of an enormous tree, unsightly walls, where the first coating of paint is replaced by emergent fungi and moss. "I am showing you that which you are too busy to see," says the artist who reinvents the unattractive and bestows a value upon it, imbuing it with a certain merit.

Photographs are not all that he has brought along; the exhibit is interleaved with oils and water colours. Part of the appeal comes from the textures that he creates. The viewer is invited to draw up a relationship with these thin, delightful strokes that come up in flash. The technique of contrasting these dark and light shades is the key to his painting, he says.

It's like a game of treasure hunt; look carefully and the surface will conjure up faces of men and women. In Tribute to Dali, his original muse, the faces are conferred with bodies and the composition peopled with animals, birds and humans; somewhere in the foreground is a caricature of Salvador Dali himself, complete with his distinctive moustache.

"'A woman is man's biggest repression", says Sivasankaran, or so he believes.

He represents this in an abstract-figurative style in a spacious, ventilated composition titled Bondage. A gloomy atmosphere pervades; further vitiated by the presence of sepulchral figures. Some of the paintings are residues of his earlier displays. One, in fact is a copy of a painting that was bought by an art lover in Dubai. Sivasankaran has lived and showcased his paintings in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. He is a member of the prestigious Emirates Arts Society. Back in Kochi, he has worked on a number of canvases to build an impressive compilation. He revels in his native surroundings. Once a Keralite, always a nature lover.


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