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Language of lines

The line takes on calligraphic, evocative and suggestive qualities in artist S. Mark Rathinaraj's works

LINES, THE basic visual element that help define shape, take on a distinctive characteristic and quality in the hands of various artists. They can be calligraphic, descriptive, evocative, expressive, animated, communicative, suggestive or plainly graphic.

In the hands of artist S. Mark Rathinaraj, who is showcasing his works at Vinyasa Art Gallery, the line takes on calligraphic, evocative and suggestive qualities. In absolute control of his medium, Rathinaraj has mediated through this versatile element to recreate nostalgic images of culture and tradition.

Rural themes

Having trained at the Kumbakonam Arts College, rural vignettes are deeply ingrained in him. His themes are based on Bharatanatyam dancers and the life of villagers. The paintings are rendered in acrylics and watercolours with monochrome tonalities of dominating reds and browns juxtaposed with startling whites or off whites.

Influence on technique

The lines of Rathinaraj are obviously influenced by two stalwarts of the Madras Art Movement, K. Adimoolam and M. Redappa Naidu. Some portraits, particularly the one of Gandhiji and the majestic rajas, are strongly reminiscent of Adimoolam's works of the 1960s. What distinguishes Rathinaraj's works is his thick, confident meandering, and choppy lines rendered with absolute assurance.

In his watercolour works, the black lines are rendered not with brush but with a nozzled plastic bottle. And the artist through the pressure applied to the bottle controls the character of the line.

Spontaneous approach

The iconography of his subjects covers a gamut from divinity (Ganeshas) to royalty (rajas) to cultural performers (Bharatanatyam dancers) to reapers and sowers on the fields to evocative portraits of villagers. The enigmatic line configures images of contemplative and meditative serenity enhanced further by the monochromes that profile it with strength and obduracy.

With an eye that perceives the juxtaposition of positive and negative spaces translated through dark tones and off white areas, Rathinaraj makes a dynamic impact on the viewer attracting him/her to have a dialogue with his lines and colours as they emerge to configure a constellation of varied subject matter.

Though the themes are clichéd and stereotypical, it is the freshness and spontaneity of the artist's approach that makes them distinctive. A talented artist, Rathinaraj needs to explore wider themes, subject matter and contemporary techniques and adopt an aggressive creative approach to his love of painting.

Rathinaraj also runs an organisation called OV Creators. He divides his time between these two professions. This is his second solo show; the first was held in 1999.

The show is on at Vinyasa Art Gallery, The Music Academy premises, TTK Road, till July 30.


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