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Fine art on leaves

Artist S. Dhinakara Sundar uses the lotus leaf to express his creativity

IT IS an exhibition with a difference. The paintings have no narratives, nor are they figurative or abstract. The support on which the works are executed is neither paper nor canvas. Instead, it is the lotus leaf.

The abstraction in the phenomenology of the natural material as leaf, which gets converted into an object of art, is intriguing to say the least. Not to deny, however, that leaf paintings were unknown since painting on pipal leaf is an ubiquitous phenomenon even today.

But where the artist S. Dhinakara Sundar strikes a posture of difference is his laborious process of evolving a chemical formula that will remove the waxiness off the leaf's surface, maintain the network of its veins, remain permanent and allow the paint to adhere. This may sound like an inventory but it is precisely these problems that the artist had to contend with to create the support for his paintings.

The works displayed by Sundar with its frames, alignment in accordance with the room spaces, and the mounts serve to enhance and create an ambience within the interior. Ironically there is this link between the spaces of the interior and the spaces created in the art works of Sundar.

It is primarily the placement of a single leaf or multiple leaves occasionally within the frames that creates a meaningful dialogue making the empty spaces carriers of positive energies, interacting to create dynamic balances of tensions of large areas of spaces.

The lotus leaf paintings display calm and meditative qualities, since they are brushed painstakingly with intellectualised colour orchestrations negating any reference to outside reality. The colours have a limited range of blues, greens, yellows, oranges and white. They are powders used ordinarily in kolam or floor decorations mixed with water. The simplicity of materials underscores every frame.

The works exhibit strong formalistic tendencies, reminding one of the Greenbergian concept of reductionism that debars illusionism, and any references to cultural contextualisation.

Beginning his experiments in mid-1990s, Sundar who wanted to dispense with the time-tried canvas and paper, was on the lookout for a new support that would allow his creativity to push further and decided to settle for the lotus leaf since the flower is a national symbol. It was a laborious and meticulous process of sourcing information that would provide a formula and method of painting on the leaf surface. And for his pedagogical guidance he turned to his teacher Alphonso Arul Doss, who encouraged him at every step of his experimentation and finally advised him to go public with his discovery. So from small beginnings, Sundar today displays his mastery over this support (leaf), brimming with confidence in his new venture.

Sundar primarily is a print maker and it is his creative versatility and restless mind that have led him to explore other avenues. As a matter of fact, it was his fundamental knowledge of printing methods and procedures that enabled him to extend his creativity in this direction. Consequent to this experimentation on the lotus leaf, he was awarded a Japanese scholarship for one year (2000-2001), since the leaf holds sanctity in that country associated with Buddhist religion providing him opportunity to hold one-man shows at Kyoto.

The exhibition is on view till December 17, at the Ashvita Art Gallery.


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