Working together for nearly 25 years, this group of artists still finds it fulfilling
THIS IS one relationship that has withstood the ravages of time. They met as youth in art school, and 25 years later, still show together. Interestingly, being in the same field has not seen any cracks in their friendship.
"Nuances", the group formed by K. Balasubramaniyan, P S Devanath, B G Magendran and S V Prabhuram, is into its 23rd show, this time at the valedictory exhibition of the Kasthuri Sreenivasan Trust Cultural Centre's "Artists' Year 2003".
During every show, the quartet rope in one local artist. "There was no special reason. We just thought it was a novel concept," says Magendran. Joining the foursome is M. Ravichandran from Ooty, who loves portraying tribals and bulls in his work.
Though they hold full-time jobs, they still manage to produce enough work to allow them to do a solo show once in three months. Balasubramaniyan is with the Stanley Medical College, while Magendran does art direction for films under the name "Magie".
He has so far done more than 60 films, including the mega hit "Badsha" and "Kathal Kisu Kisu". Prabhuram is a part-time interior designer and full-time artist and Devanath, a professor in painting at the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai. Ravichandran is the art gallery officer at the State Lalit Kala Akademi in Ooty.
All the paintings displayed in the show, which is on till Thursday, are up for sale.
Ask the artists if it feels bad when parting with their works and they reply in the affirmative. "But, selling is necessary to sustain art. This is not our bread and butter, but we still need to sell and reach out to more people," reasons Magendran.
The works of the five have been arranged in order. And, as you walk through the gallery, you notice there is nothing in common in their styles. Each one of them focusses on one area. So, you have Balasubramaniyan's mixed media work of the five elements in geometrical shapes, Magendran's Rajasthani frescoes-influenced creations of leafless branches, Prabhuram's architectural collage in acrylic and Devanath's slices of life in water colour on canvas and Ganeshas in metal relief.
The artists admit that showing together has hampered individual growth, but say this offers a different kind of fulfilment. "The best thing is that we are able to criticise our own work," says Balasubramaniyan.
Abstract art forms a major part of the works on display, but the nice thing is that the artists are at hand to explain their creations.
They don't take offence when you ask them about the circles and triangles in their work. "Explaining abstract work is the duty of artists.
Once you show in a gallery, you are answerable to the public and it is essential that they look at the painting in the way you conceived it.
You have to tell them what prompted you to create that piece and what it means.
That way, you educate one person and the message will be passed around," they say in unison, adding: "We make it a point to be present at the gallery where we are showing. We want to be there to meet every visitor."
The market for art is improving in the South India, they say, adding that hotels and corporates are buying art in a big way.
Works that impress include those of the Benares ghat, scenes from village life, the vegetable seller, the ruins of Hampi, Ravichandran's sketch of a Toda elder and paintings of Orissa tribals and Magendran's striking skeletal branches.
In Prabhuram's creations, the futility of destruction is evident. "After every war, monuments collapse. I wish that stops. My works are my reaction to that," he says simply.
Ravichandran's canvas of Orissa' Muriya Gonds entices. The subjects sport square, wooden faces. Any special reason?
"These tribals are specialists in wooden masks and toys. This work shows them wearing the masks they created."
SUBHA J RAO
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