Dalit art and aesthetics by Indian artists on display at Chennai’s Lalit Kala Akademi

As part of the Vaanam Art Festival by Pa Ranjith’s Neelam Cultural Centre, a display of Dalit art and aesthetics by 30 artists from the country takes over Lalit Kala Akademi in Chennai

April 24, 2024 04:31 pm | Updated 04:31 pm IST

Artist Chandrasekar Gurusamy will be felicitated at the inauguration of the event

Artist Chandrasekar Gurusamy will be felicitated at the inauguration of the event | Photo Credit: special arrangement

What is the month of April synonymous with apart from the scorching summer? Resistance.

For the last three years, Pa Ranjith’s Neelam Cultural Centre has honoured the birth month of BR Ambedkar with unbridled celebration. The month-long Vaanam Art Festival is now a cultural event that the city looks forward to every year. Talks, panel discussions, photo and art exhibits, performances and film screenings that champion the cause of Dalit resistance and social justice mark this event, which aims at fostering an environment for healthy dialogue. This year, the walls of Lalit Kala Akademi will showcase the works of 30 artists in an exhibition titled Curve, as we approach the end of the festival. 

“We as artists have been continuously working on an art camp with a focus on Dalit atrocities, and environmental issues that we have been hearing of late. For the last three years, Neelam joined hands with us to bring Dalit art and aesthetics to the mainstream,” says artist Nataraj K, curator of the show. The show is hinged on the intersection of art, literature and personal politics, he adds. 

A sketch by Chandrasekar Gurusamy

A sketch by Chandrasekar Gurusamy | Photo Credit: special arrangement

“Our politics is centered around marginalised communities and the adversities they face. The artists whose works will be on display, though not necessarily from the margins, share the same politics. That was the only requirement when the works were curated,” adds Nataraj. Multiple works of all 30 artists will take over the gallery – both senior and upcoming artists from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry and Maharashtra are showcasing their work through different mediums including paintings, sculptures, and even audio installations in the form of podcasts. 

“This year, we are also felicitating senior artist Chandrasekaran Gurusamy with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Over 50 drawings and sketches of his from the 1980s and 1990s are a highlight of the display,” adds Nataraj. A veteran sculptor who hails from Ambasamudram, Tirunelveli, he has constructed an open-air art museum on the banks of river Thamirabarani. He has researched, catalogued and erected over 600 sculptures of scholars who have dedicated their life and work to humanity, and Tamil arts and culture. 

Sculpture by artist Maria Anthony Raj

Sculpture by artist Maria Anthony Raj | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Each artist displays two to three works each, and the underlying thread is their politics and ideologies. And so, artworks that speak about the aesthetics of sustainable living and of living in harmony with Nature will be on display, along with those that speak about compassion in Buddhism and the temperance it offers. Artworks that speak about the oscillations in the mind of the oppressed, moments of heartbreak, and moments of self-realisation all form a big part of the curation, adds Nataraj. 

“We think it is our responsibility to educate the upcoming talents about what we intend to convey, and so age was never a criterion for this curation,” says Nataraj. Works of senior artists like Maria Anthony Raj from Cholamandal Artists’ Village and Purushothaman T will be on display, apart from known names like B Venkatesan, Anthoni Guruz D, Puviyarasu Kannadasan, V Selvakumar among others. 

An artwork by artist T Purushothaman

An artwork by artist T Purushothaman | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Curve will be on display at Lalit Kala Akademi, Greams Road, Egmore from April 24 to 30.

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