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Nostalgic lyricism

SOMEWHERE NEAR a bustling marketplace in downtown Thripunithra, hidden between a lacklustre photostat shop and a couple of dull provision stores, Mahatma Art Gallery is not as pretentious as it sounds. Titled Pratheeksha, the gallery is the art wing of the Mahatma Library and Reading Room. So unknown is its existence that even though they pass by it regularly most locals are unaware of its location. A dreary stairway leads the viewer to a large, open space where artist K.A.Devadas has mounted his collection of paintings.

Even as Devadas is drawn to the subject of Nature around him and essays to build a concord between man and his environment, there is not one broad categorisation to which his works belong. Form of Hegemony is a poignant portrayal of the indecent treatment meted out to women. With her arms raised she stands in the background assuming the posture of surrender. The man's presence is belligerent and to make it evident that he is in command, the artist brings him centre stage. Large symbolic eyes create a sense of the theatrical. There is a firm, bold simplicity that marks his canvases which is reminiscent of a folk tradition.

Colours of Land, which is peopled with familiar landscapes like a lotus pond and a bamboo tree, is defined by a neat patterning. He showcases the flora and vegetation that is typical of the state. In their symmetry and evenness, the leaves look decorative and ornamental. There is a child-like straightforwardness in the compositions that he structures, and characterises them with a rhythmic outline. The men and women who stray into his canvas are marionette-like, engrossed in their daily chores. The artist wants to retain the flavour of a primitive, untrained style of painting and so his figures appear in a frontal position; the knees are not flexed so there is no creation of movement. These are some abstract qualities, which are a part of the native idiom. The images are reduced to a bare essential in order to make them more emphatic. He experiments to incorporate different elements in his style, which is folk art oriented. The exhibition closed on November 30.


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