Art Sivakesava Rao use stark shades of black, white and red to give a new perspective to Gandhi. Sangeetha Devi Dundoo

Kandru Sivakesava Rao is not an artist whose works we get to see very often. But when he does exhibit his works, the paintings are capable of arresting the viewer. An exhibition of his latest series on Mahatma Gandhi, on view at Muse Art Gallery, Hotel Marriott, is timed aptly for Republic Day.

The works take us back in time and urge us to take a fresh look at the life and times of Bapu. Rao is known to paint in stark black and white charcoal on paper, with sparse use of earthy tones of yellow and brown. This time though, we notice a clever and understated use of deep red along with black and white. “I wanted to retain the inherent simplicity of Gandhi but introduce colour as a metaphor to show that he was a colourful personality ahead of his times,” explains Sivakesava Rao.

The deep hues of red never once overpower the strokes of black and white and yet convey destruction and turmoil that was part of the freedom struggle. “Red is a powerful colour and I could remember Gandhi's lines, ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind' while painting,” reveals the artist.

The paintings present Gandhi as a young barrister, as a family man, leading the salt Satyagraha from the forefront and at his Sabarmati ashram. Among the 40-odd paintings on display, a few are from Rao's earlier exhibition. A strong believer in Gandhian principles, Rao's work is a result of years of research. “I feel Gandhism is very relevant today, which is why I keep returning to paint on this subject.”

The paintings have already been bought by a Mumbai-based art collector. The exhibition is on view till February 4.