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Vignettes of village life

`Song of the Village', an exhibition of works by Laxman Aelay, creates awareness of life in rural Telengana

Simple scenes, profound meaning: a pen and ink work (above) and an acrylic on canvas (right) by Laxman Aelay

HAILING FROM a family of weavers, it is not surprising that Laxman Aelay is gifted with an innate artistic sense. His stint as an illustrator and designer with a leading publication in Andhra Pradesh kindled his interest in fine arts and inspired him to enrol for a degree course in art. Simultaneously, he worked as publicity designer for films. But painting obviously is his passion.

Aelay's subject in all his works are the people and happenings of his native village in Telengana. Their life and folklore have had a tremendous impact on him. The stocky, hard working villagers, particularly the women, come alive in his acrylic works in a somewhat stylised manner. He pays great attention to detail. From the big red `pottu' on their forehead to the floral designs on their saris and blouses, every little piece of jewellery, even the safety pins and keys on their `thali' chains, has been depicted with care. The warm earthy colours such as Indian red, burnt sienna, ochre and green heighten the effect of his imageries. The use of texture white as a base blends perfectly with the mud walls of the village houses.

Multiple images

Aelay layers his ideas with multiple images. The bard who narrates stories at the doorstep is seen through a door frame, while the figures from the story are shown like leather puppets tumbling out; a woman is depicted dreaming and scenes get mixed up or flash past in quick succession; a man is in deep thought, several memories clamouring for space in his mind... . This layering often takes the shape of split images to show that people often have to wear different `masks' when dealing with different people or situations. Aelay also designs and illustrates poetry and story books and this helps him in the spatial arrangement of his paintings.

What appears as simple scenes actually have deeper ideas, reflecting the impact that political events have had on the artist. An example of this is the Telugu graffiti on the wall of a rural home that says, "Go to Hyderabad". It reminds us of the struggle for a separate Telengana. Similarly, the bullocks yoked to a plough seem to be fighting among themselves — again a simple scene in which Aelay recalls the struggle of the Naxalites.

Besides colourful paintings, what catches the attention of viewers at Aelay's show at the Apparao Galleries is the collection of acrylic and pen and ink drawings. Against a stark red background are seen rural men in white, in fine black line drawing. The black wool blanket or `gongudi' appears almost real because of the surface texture of the canvas. With their white turbans, bracelets, chains and sticks, the men strike heroic poses. Clear sharp lines define the forms. The same quality of outlining is evident in Aelay's paintings too.

In another set of drawings, a men and women are seen in varied situations; the human forms are drawn in black on a yellow background; the bodies are filled with solid black while the clothes have the same yellow tint.

Here too Aelay has taken care to draw in detail the floral prints on the saris and the designs on the men's shirts.

Titled `Song of the Village', these works seem to be aimed at creating an awareness of rural Telengana and its simple folk. The show is on till April 9.


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