CHAT A picture should communicate pictoriality instead of just telling a story, says senior Cholamandal artist P. Gopinath

P. Gopinath, senior artist from Cholamandal says he is primarily a colourist, with an early inspiration from the Indian miniatures and the way they use colour.

“My work went through different stages,” says Gopinath over telephone from Chennai. “Today I have evolved a new pictorial language. But my work should look colourful on the wall.”

Gopinath says his work went through three stages. “I began painting with watercolours, inspired by the reflections of backwaters in Kerala, where I am from. Then I travelled around India where I encountered different schools of miniatures in Kangra and Kasauli. I met traditional painters, who explained the way they grind colour and make brushes.”

This knowledge inspired Gopinath who then incorporated what he learnt, though in a “contemporary” sense. This was the time that he was creating his biomorphic image series which was also inspired by nature.

“Then my work evolved to this stage, where it is very visual. My work is abstract and non-figurative. I don’t tell any stories in my paintings, there is only form and colour, which has evolved over the years.”

Gopinath believes that an artist cannot arrive at a particular form and colour unless without experimenting with painting. “It’s an evolution,” he says. “I work directly on canvas or paper without predetermining what I am going to do. In the beginning it was utter chaos but a pictorial order started evolving from that. I enjoy working like that and the ideas flow from one painting to another.”

Gopinath’s forms can often be looked at as symbols or geometric shapes. “Symbols are easy to handle, like road signs. They are easy to understand and easy to communicate with, and they keep evolving,” he explains. And the geometric shapes are not geometric shapes in the mathematical or the Western sense, but have a deep connection to Indian spirituality.

“For instance, the Sri Chakra is a cosmological image and is used for meditation. Multiples of triangles are used to depict the movement of the Nataraja form of Shiva. The area around that structure gives life to the form inside. The painter uses structure to keep form inside and it creates monumentality. We discover this in our pictorial journey.”

But whether the observer looks into these aspects is a different matter altogether. Yet, Gopinath believes, a painting has to communicate. “When you look at an abstract painting that does not tell a story, then you think about it, why it is the way it is. But if it tells a definite story then it becomes a visual object that you then forget about. A picture should communicate pictoriality instead of telling a story. After the advent of the camera, there has not been a need for people to paint reality.”

Gopinath’s works will be on view until October 5 in the exhibition titled “Contemporary Small Format Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures and Drawings” by the Cholamandal artists’ group at Gallery Time and Space, 55, Lavelle Road. For details, contact 22124117.