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SOORAJ RAJMOHAN
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‘Password of Kerala’, an exhibition of artist Chandranandan’s paintings, combines the culture of the State with artistic insights

Different perspectivesArtist Chandranandan with one of his worksPhoto: Sooraj Rajmohan
Different perspectivesArtist Chandranandan with one of his worksPhoto: Sooraj Rajmohan

Trees wearing traditional mundu , a Kathakali performer whose upper body, for lack of a better word, blooms into an expanse of coconut branches and a humanoid figure merged with a tree that appears to provide sustenance to a casually lounging green elephant. These are some of the images that await viewers at ‘Password of Kerala’, an exhibition of paintings by artist Chandranandan, on at the Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum art gallery.

Chandranandan explains that the images endeavour to capture an essence of life in Kerala, but also tell individual stories. The tree-man and elephant are a representation of the relationship between parents and children in this age. “The tree providing nourishment to the elephant is a look at the plight of the average Indian father, who strives his entire lifetime to provide for his children, sacrificing everything and keeping nothing for himself, being slowly drained of his life force,” he explains cryptically. He then picks out a work that he describes as his interpretation of a mother, a female form set against a tranquil blue background resembling a planet and starry space beyond.

The works contain passing references to the culture of the State, some easily recognisable, some incorporating symbolism, and others featuring strange juxtaposition. An example of the latter is a yak roaming about between the trees in a rubber plantation, with Kerala’s ubiquitous rubber trees contrasting with the creature Chandranandan observed on a trip to Ladakh. A depiction of the traditional illam featuring various animals, and a frozen frame of an elephant ride gone awry add to the surreal nature created by the 18 works on display.

Chandranandan, a former employee of the Kerala Agricultural University and an expert in publication design, believes in the superiority of oil over acrylic colours. “While acrylic does have many advantages, oil is always in a class of its own. Despite the rigours of painting with oil, it is my medium of choice.” And in between his Kathakali performers and coconut trees, there are also subtle socio-political messages. Hidden deep within a fiery red canvas are two figures, one wearing a mundu and the other stark naked. “The king is naked,” he says simply, perhaps in reference to the Danish tale ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.

There are many more works that invite interpretation among Chandranandan’s collection, with the work ‘Starry, starry night’ serving as a simple balm for the mind after the workout it gets from the other images. The painting depicts a man and woman working a water pumping apparatus in the wee hours of the morning before dawn’s first light. “There are many sides to this, the tranquillity of the morning, the coordination required to operate the apparatus and even a shared love,” says Chandranandan.

The exhibition is on at the Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum art gallery from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. till March 31.

SOORAJ RAJMOHAN

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