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Mood and movement

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FASCINATING CONTRAST One of the works on display
FASCINATING CONTRAST One of the works on display

Karthik Venkatraman has skilfully captured almost every movement of some Indian dance forms on film

Karthik Venkatraman's exhibition of photographs "Captured Forever" has been inspired by the performances of Sutra Dance Theatre, whose presentations have been featured in Chennai. Inaugurated by noted film director Mani Ratnam at Forum Art Gallery, the exhibition showcases a promising young photographer's works on a few of India's dance forms.Fascinated by the energy of motion and distilled poise, Karthik has attentively observed and caught almost every movement of these art forms on film. Featuring the works of Odissi dancers, Karthik has succeeded in seizing the characteristically mellifluous movements, the graceful, sculpted postures and the striking vigour inherent in their gesticulations. Long exposure shots with variable shutter speeds have literally frozen the graceful gestures of the dancers `capturing forever' that one moment in time.

Form and composition

In varied compositions, the crisp forms in the silhouettes are juxtaposed with the energy of the haze in movement-inspired shots that make time stand still to ensnare the span of a few seconds. What excites Karthik is "the form, the composition and energy rather than the beauty of the dancers. The effect of lights on mood was something new. The stage is another world altogether where the dancers are completely in their element." While some of the images are of actual performances, Karthik has also carefully chosen locations for his posed shots mindful of the fact that they would add to the value of the protagonist, here the dance form itself. The mighty Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur and the romantic Amber Palace near Jaipur gracefully form the context for the display of culture.In one instance when female dancers impersonate the mighty horses drawing forth the Sun temple at Konarak, the framing of the shot and the angle of the composition multiply the effect of the power of these mighty beasts within the diminutive physiques of the dancers. Other works have been art-directed by the photographer with the dancers specifically assuming positions and postures at his bidding, yet not losing their intrinsic power and vitality. Contrasts of colour, light and dark are encapsulated in silhouetted forms. The fascination for contrasts is further denoted here in the tranquil figure, framed by the frantic movement of flying birds. In `Matisse Shadows,' the abstract floral pattern on the wall juxtaposed with the painted column contrasts with the fluid form of the dancers' shadows redefining the two-dimensional plane. Composition and light have been explored and exploited to good effect in `Descent of the Apsaras' which seems to breathe life into what may be envisioned as painted forms. Karthik, in his documentation, has showcased two art forms, performance art through the medium of visual art, while translating the art of movement into the art of tranquillity. He lucidly communicates the visuality of the drama that is the dance. Karthik Venkatraman's photographs are on view at Forum Art Gallery, Fifth Street, Padmanabha Nagar, Adyar till April 11.

SWAPNA SATHISH

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