From KCS Paniker to Laxma Gouda — works of master artists on display in Chennai


Gallery Veda’s ongoing exhibition features an unusual collection by master artists, which focuses on the human figure

Yellowing sheets of paper, riddled with fine holes, carry the evolution of a piece of art.

Trial sketches, with the year they were done scribbled at the end of the sheet, provide context to Kolhapur artist MV Dhurandhar’s work: realistic portraits of the human figure, be it three women walking with their faces covered by their pallus, or a woman engrossed in draping her sari.

Glass vitrines and panels are arranged neatly, vertically, forming a satisfying pattern in Gallery Veda. These vitrines and walls hold priceless pieces — by master artists from across the country, who carved out their own distinct styles right from the 1900s. These iconic works have one theme in common; all explore the possibilities of the human body.

It is not often that enthusiasts and collectors get to see the process behind works of art, which is why this show is unique. From squiggly, often illegible notes to trial sketches on the back of the same page, some of the work in The Figural Universe exhibition will make viewers squint to better absorb every word on the canvas, which is often an unassuming piece of paper.

For instance, A P Santhanaraj’s work is on a scribbling pad — the letterhead reads, ‘Pro. Santhanaraj// sculptor, painter// former principal G. C. A. C.’ Much of his work (most being untitled) on display manifest his roots in local culture. Fractured forms and lines, sometimes indecipherable, dominate. Amorphous faces, landscapes and people, the parallel between land and human form can be seen, vaguely referring to man’s relationship with Nature.

This very idea runs along Laxma Goud’s work as well — more Cubist and less abstract, the series portrays faces that are often seen in the countryside. Vaishnavi Ramanathan, art critic, writes in her concept note for the show, “In these works, the raw passion evident in his early work has been replaced by subtler emotions.”

From KCS Paniker to Laxma Gouda — works of master artists on display in Chennai

Unnaturally sharp features of the face and the human body, give it a distinct quality — too sharp to miss. These pieces explore the uninhibited world of the countryside, making viewers juxtapose it with its restrictive, urban counterpart.

On the other hand, the work of Somnath Hore, born in erstwhile East Bengal, weighs heavily on the Bengal famine, communal riots and Partition. This results in seemingly abstract, free hand drawings, that are maybe casual sketches of unexpected thought — like the line drawing of a farmer carrying a sickle on his shoulder, back hunched. “Suffering and wounds became the subject of his work expressed through various media like printmaking, sculptures and sketches,” Vaishnavi writes — in the 1970s and 1980s, he worked on his famed Wounds series.

KCS Paniker, pioneer of the Madras Art Movement, also leaves a lingering touch in this display. A master in the naturalistic painting method, his portraits search for an Indian identity, as Vaishnavi puts it. From the portrait of a naked woman staring back morosely, to the muscles rippling on the back of a bald man, Paniker work makes one appreciate the raw beauty of the human figure.

“He began to create flat forms with an emphasis on linearity that drew from Indian visual traditions,” Vaishnavi says.

Greys and earthy tones dominate C Douglas’ works, an amalgamation of text and drawings. Chaotic at first look, his work “depicts the fragility of human existence” through the use of tea stains and sand that often seep through the paper used. Striken-off text, repeated words, and aggressive strokes characterise his art.

Walking through the grid of rarely seen work of these prolific artists, opens one to the varying possibilities of the human body. And each of the artists’ take on the same, only widens one’s perspective.

The Figural Universe, will be on display till January 2, at Gallery Veda, Nungambakkam.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 10:55:25 PM |

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