Chennai artists explore philosophical questions through abstraction in this display

‘5 Art Bananas’ art display at the Government College of Fine Arts, Egmore, answers philosophical questions through abstraction.

March 10, 2022 01:24 pm | Updated March 13, 2022 01:35 pm IST

Artist Prabakaran’s series titled Inception

Artist Prabakaran’s series titled Inception | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Colour characterises Nungambakkam’s Gallery Veda today, as textured canvases that span mediums, genres and thought processes adorn the walls. A geometrical canvas wearing hues of purple, blue, yellow, green and orange, is hard to miss — titled Golden Eye and tactfully positioned at the far end from the entry point, the work by Prabhakaran S., is a jolting deviation from the rest as circles take shape from the flat surface divided in quadrants.

On the side walls hang Venkatesh Balasubramaniam’s series of abstract works characterised by heavy brush strokes and blotches of settled paint; facing which is a frame that holds bright orange, blue and red fibre strips superimposed on a mirror-like surface which Alagarraja Ponniah calls A Movement Suspended in Time.  

From artist Narayanan’s Totality series

From artist Narayanan’s Totality series | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

This diverse showcase is intriguingly titled 5 Art Bananas — ask the curator Venkatesh what it means and a reminder follows: of Maurizio Cattelan’s infamous banana duct-taped to the wall at Art Basel (titled Comedian) that went for $1,20,000, which was later pulled off and eaten by a performance artist.

The artists whose works feature in this display are “our own local bananas”, says Venkatesh. The banana was immediately replaced, highlighting that the intention of the artist is the real art. “For me, this was a defining moment of how the industry is changing. Each of these artists is influencing the world through a social context. This also happens to be the thought behind Genesis.”

Genesis is a city-based collective, formed through 1993 to 1998, that put the spotlight on a group of more than 23 like-minded artists, who were also alumni of the Government College of Fine Arts, Egmore. They started with a show at Lalitkala Akademi, and continued until 2008 when the collective shrunk. “The focus was always on South Indian art which deserved more visibility,” says Venkatesh.

Artist Venkatesh’s Interconnectedness IV

Artist Venkatesh’s Interconnectedness IV | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

5 Art Bananas, which was formally inaugurated by Bose Krishmachari, marks the first time since 2008 that the collective and its remaining members are coming together to show their diverse practices. “It took us three years to pull this off together,” he says. In the meantime, each of the artists has evolved in their individual practices. 

Take for instance Ganesh Selavaraj’s works: the artist who dabbled in oils and acrylics on canvas has now settled on paper as a preferred medium. “Through the medium of paper, he is asking whether we can approach a piece of art without preconceived knowledge or notions,” he says. Venkatesh’s work explores the concept of ‘thought’ as the starting point of life — the very element that moves life forward. Prabhakaran’s Inception is reliant on text. In one frame, he writes, “My mother signed my birth certificate; today I am signing her death certificate.” A metaphor to the circle of life, Prabhakaran’s work is an incubatory space where thoughts push and pull at each other, in order to find a balance. Alagaraj’s work holds a mirror up to us, and sometimes quite literally through his use of unusual mediums. And Narayanan’s Totality explores the spiritual journey of human life by eliminating the dimension of conditioning, says Venkatesh. He uses a ball of yarn or thread as a motif that appears time and again. 

Alagarraja Ponniah’s A Moment Suspended in Time

Alagarraja Ponniah’s A Moment Suspended in Time | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Genesis hopes to keep this momentum going. “We are planning to show this exhibition in Bengaluru and Hyderabad next, the proposals are being prepared now,” says Venkatesh. The aim is to expand from five to 500 artists in the coming months. “I believe this would bring the Madras Art Movement to the spotlight once again,” he concludes.    

5 Art Bananas will be on view till March 23 at Gallery Veda from 11am to 7pm

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