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Tuesday, Aug 26, 2003

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Black, white and grey

"Search for Form", an exhibition of black and white photographs by G. Venket Ram, capture the splendour of ancient Chola architecture

BLACK, WHITE and many shades of grey constitute leading photographer G. Venket Ram's "Search for Form". Enamoured by the period ambience of the Imperial Chola temple towns and responding to whispers from centuries bygone, Venket has successfully captured glimpses of ancient glory. The timeless character of the black and white images permits the present to be pictured as the past, and for the past to be envisaged from the present.

"Fascinated by the architecture," Venket has focussed on the Shaivite temples of Narthamalai, Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram, where locally available stone was employed without the aid of concrete or cement to create these Chola masterpieces that `still stand witnessing the transformation of South India from Imperial times to modern Tamil Nadu.' Evocative of their regal past, their place in a once-glorious dynastic history, and representing the powers of God and King, these are indeed silent stones with tales to tell.

At Darasuram, the temple is framed by coconut palms whose verticality seems to challenge that of the vimana, and in Thanjavur, a wall covered with celebrated traditional mural paintings stands in contrast with another luxuriously adorned with contemporary graffiti. Atmospheric character is created within the frame by way of swelling dark clouds and coconut palms swaying in a strong wind, while carved pillars stand tall, having witnessed many a storm in terms of historic conflicts.

Although the sun came down on the Imperial Chola Empire, Venket's photographs speak of the religion that still lives, a colourful one at that, captured here in austere black and white. Black and white photography is undeniably appropriate in this instance, for it speaks of the language of the ancient architecture, achieves a faultless harmony and sings in perfect tune with its subject.

This exhibition, which can awaken the viewer's consciousness of the splendour and grace of our treasures from times gone by, is on at the Alliance Francaise of Madras, 24, College Road, till August 31.


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