“The pandemic changed the way I approach art,” says Laxman Aelay. ‘Inked Images’, a monochromatic series of 50 pen and ink drawings by the well known artist from Hyderabad, reflects this change in approach. On view at Kadari Art Gallery in Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, and virtually (kadariartgallery.com), Inked Images is the artist’s multi-layered depiction of birds, animals and insects in the urban ecosystem.
Aelay worked on this series in 2020 when India went into lockdown in March. “As artists, we are used to isolation. In addition, since there were no social obligations or meetings to attend, I could give my undivided attention to my work,” he says.
A few days before the lockdown, he had visited the Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad accompanied by other artists. The artists had sponsored the upkeep of the 37-year-old elephant Sita, following their earlier series Gaja, an exhibition of elephant sculptures. “I observed the animals and birds at close quarters in the zoo. Once the lockdown was imposed, we all heard how animals and birds had more freedom to explore urban spaces and highways. All this prompted me to work on this series and touch upon multiple issues,” he says.
The artworks are characterised by fine lines, the occasional use of calligraphy and Telugu typography to lend rich detailing, while exploring themes related to ecological balance.
A virtual viewing of art might have become the new norm during the pandemic, but Aelay encourages art enthusiasts to visit the gallery to take a closer look and decipher the nuances.
Since Kadari Art Gallery is spearheaded by architect Supraja Rao, the virtual exhibition factors in the likelihood of viewers who may be keen to acquire a few artworks for their homes and offices. The exhibition gives an idea of how some of these works might look on the wall, using representational images of digital staging.
Aelay is popularly known for figurative artworks through which he portrays rural Telangana lifestyles, with realistic imagery. Turmeric yellows and vermillion reds are part of his colour palette.
Inked Images is starkly monochromatic and veers towards expressionism: “I had no access to my studio during the complete lockdown. All I had were pen, paper and ink at home and I decided to do a black-and-white series,” he says.
(‘Inked Images’ is on view at Kadari Art Gallery, Hyderabad, till August 22)