Art Kaladharan's oeuvre has remained true to his artistic roots without ever playing to the gallery. His ongoing exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, concludes on October 30. K.C. Chithrabhanu

T oday, almost every activity, including the pursuit of creative arts, is dictated by commerce. While many artists seem to have been trapped by an enchanting aura of big money, there are others who continue their practice without compromising on their work to suit the taste and demands of the market.

Artist T. Kaladharan is one of those artists who has never surrendered to market forces. He has been continuing his creative pursuit for more than three decades, and it has resulted in the creation of many thought-provoking innovative works.

An artist of great understanding, Kaladharan is aware of the global scenario, new ideas, and diverse modes of expressions. He has often broken away from the conventional and has frequently invented new expressions of visual language. He seeks inspiration from various art forms and streams of culture in his home state, Kerala.

In Kaladharan's search for the new, various cultural symbols find their way into his work in one form or the other, such as linear patterns, structural forms or an overall visual effect. The lush green of Kerala's landscape, the glowing reds of Theyyam, the effulgent yellows of the twilight sky or an oil lamp, the black of ‘kari vesham' in Kathakali or floor painting, serene and calm blues of lagoons – all find expression in his works, in various forms, at various phases.

His ongoing show at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai consists of four sets of select works executed by the artist during the last four years – ‘Orthic I,' ‘Orthic II,' ‘Red and Black,' ‘Orthic III' and the ‘Blue series,' titled ‘Santham' (tranquillity).

Novel techniques

‘Orthic I,' is a graphical presentation of myriad images rising from one's memory. The works introduce the viewer to the novel techniques employed by the artist for unveiling of images otherwise hidden between layers of pigments. The forms are projected through the incised sharp cut lines and they are juxtaposed against the angular planes of colours. In ‘Orthic II,' there is a progressive development, a kind of meditation, along the horizontal-vertical lines, which are carried to the point of total distillation.

The basic theme seems to be the quest for an aesthetic harmonisation of relationship between man and his urban belonging. In these paintings, drawing continues to determine the syntax of his work. Here the artist doesn't project his images into the physical space of the viewer, but has, instead, chosen to break free from the confines of the usual rectangular support, by mounting irregular planes of colour.

Kaladharan's use of colour and his apparently systematic handling reinforces the diagrammatic structural paradoxes. Saturated hues jump forward and sink back in ways that optically tip and bend. The basic linear geometries in a given section of the work, in turn, either reiterates or contradicts the cultural planar shifts of the works.

Method of painting

He doesn't premix his pigments but applies it directly from the tube in layers and glazes. The shining glaze obtained from the use of metallic colours in contrast with the opacity of acrylic builds up a textual background. The clearly discernible weave of his sweeping parallel strokes serves to further accentuate the stages of his painting process.

Kaladharan's experience with theatre, architecture, and sculptural projects are reflected in some of his works. The vertical-horizontal rhythms that can be viewed in his austere red and black series could be the improvisations of architectural forms translated into painting.

‘Orthic III' paintings refer to specific episodes from Kerala's folklore as well as ruminations from the past. The paintings, which are smaller in size (30 x 30 cms) compared to the Orthic series I and II, are executed with metallic pigments on acrylic sheets. Here the fluid and suave lines suggest human figures and objects floating on a colourful transparent surface.

‘Saantham' presents sets of canvases in multifarious tones of blue, suggesting a state of serenity. The use of soft horizontal planes and extreme simplification creates an illusionary world of divine peace.

Kaladharan's exhibition in Mumbai concludes on October 30.