Art Avanavu Narayanan's drawings titled ‘Sculpting in Time,' which were on display at the Kerala Lalitakala Akademi, Thrissur, draw inspiration from physical features sculpted by the wind and the rain. Jaya Narayanan Pisharoty
T hey stare down at you in their black and white intensity, some dark, some brooding, others filled with grace and charm. Artist Avanavu Narayanan's drawings, titled ‘Sculpting in Time,' which were on display at the Lalitakala Akademi, Thrissur, are certainly arresting.
Narayanan, who has been working as an art teacher for the past 27 years, was instructed in fine arts by Ganapathi of Peringode, Palakkad, in the gurukula system. He had, for long, used oil or acrylics on canvas as a medium for his works. He has exhibited series of such paintings on topics such as environment and childhood, in Kochi and Bangalore. His paintings have also travelled to Greece. “Last year I got the idea of using graphite on paper. I executed the drawings on a smooth surface and the resulting pictures were satisfactory, but smudges were unavoidable. The search for a rougher surface ended when I found grained Italian paper, which I have used in this series,” says the artist.
The effect is something different; a medium that appears to be perfect for the theme – sculptures made by Nature's artists, the wind and the rain, on the vast canvas that is earth.
In this series, Narayanan has recreated black and white sketches of arches and boulders, pits and peaks. However, Narayanan does not reproduce existing physical features per se, but simply obeys an inner instinct to give shape to his imaginative wanderings. Relatively less-travelled and without much exposure to many natural wonders, it seems Narayanan has unconsciously created pictures that vaguely remind us of the Giants' Causeway in Ireland, ‘The Needles' chalk stacks on the Isle of Wight and so on.
“Stone has been a silent witness to man's appearance and existence on earth. It is this relationship that has inspired me to choose this theme,” says Narayanan. In one work, light falls on a tall stone, one that dwarfs others in the background. Through this, the artist wants to convey the image of a spiritual leader whom others follow.
There are works that bring back memories of great natural landscapes such as the Grand Canyon and man-made wonders such as the Great Bath at Mohenjodaro and the Bamiyan Buddhas. One feels that a sepia-tone would probably have suited these drawings more. Some drawings have an element of fluidity such as the one suggesting a rising wave and another, a crawling beast. This represents the artist's concept of the inherent motion in stillness and the nucleus of stillness in motion.
The artist says that he has also been inspired by diverse elements of Nature such as roots and even a toad, apart from natural formations. He feels that we have lost touch with nature and we need to be reminded of its omnipresence.
The shades and tones that Naryanan has used convey depth and energy. One work that depicts a seashell has rings like those of a tree trunk, thus symbolising life on land and in water.
Huge boulders balanced on rocks form a repetitive pattern in the artist's paintings. Nature is the ultimate artist who fashions sculptures out of stone. Time and space have been the witnesses of this creative process. If there is a deity the painter reveres, it is undoubtedly nature and his paintings are black and white paeans to it.