Art

Shaped by the changing sea

Abstract painter Athiveerapandian. Photo: Special Arrangement

Abstract painter Athiveerapandian. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Abstract painter Athiveerapandian talks to Sujatha Shankar Kumar about his relationship with colours

A profusion of colours inhabit abstract painter Athiveerapandian’s works in his show ‘Absence and Presence’ – whirlpools of blue; tangled webs of yellow; torrid clouds of blood red, smoky black and white. Globs of paint drip and slide down the canvas unevenly making their way. Inky blues threaten caramel yellows emerging through swampy dark greens. It is not unlike this Indian monsoon morning, viewed through a hazy window splattered with raindrops, where we no longer see a landscape of forms but a riot of colours. The sea, especially, has shaped Athiveerapandian and like its changing moods as it tosses and turns, he reflects on our continually transforming states of perception.

In this zone, colours emerge as characters – crossing, playing, fighting, coalescing and emerging - enabled by the artist towards a state of equilibrium.

Famously reticent, Athiveerapandian, who has been painting for 30 years, shares his thoughts. Wife and art history professor Susan Athi joins in.

How do people relate to your paintings?

Athi: In India we always see the wholeness of things. But I find children enjoying my paintings, more than adults. We must empty ourselves; make ourselves free.

How has Athi’s painting changed over the years?

Susan: His studies have become more detailed and capture his emotions and thinking. He reads a lot, travels a lot. All this impacts his work. Athi was also one of the first to use painter software and a Wacom pad to create portraits on a computer. He has done the Pope and Obama. His portraits are very realistic and

natural. This understanding of colour has also influenced his abstract works.

What is your painting environment and process?

Athi: Growing up, my family lived by the sea. Then our ancestral home sank in a flood. I still live near the seashore in Thiruvottriyur. I paint in a compact 12’ x 8’ portico space with plants all around. My wife is from Kerala and she likes plants. I have a big stretcher. This six-feet tall painting took six hours. Paint was

dripping on all sides!

Susan: Athi does not like to be confined. He likes large canvases without frames. He is happy painting at his own pace. Earlier, he would make separate sections. Now he works on one large canvas, dividing it into parts, working section by section. Nobody can rush him to do a painting.

What were some of your childhood influences?

Athi: I was the youngest of five brothers – so, many restrictions were imposed on me. I always liked watching things - looking at fishermen riding the waves from crest to trough into the ocean. My father was involved with the Communist Party. He bought many Russian books on art that I loved. One of my brothers,

now a marine engineer, liked painting seascapes. He encouraged me a lot to pursue art.

Susan: Athi is a voracious reader and our bookshelves are lined with books on history and art. He likes Rembrandt and Bacon. He enjoys videos on artists – how they live and work - he can go on watching. Athi was very close to his father. He would take him to movies, especially war-movies. You will see a lot of red in

Athi’s work. His father, nature, the sea – these were all inspirations.

Does a certain colour, like blue, have special meaning for you?

Athi: Colours come spontaneously. I do not like to ascribe any special meaning to any colour. But for me, blue is infinity. It makes me feel cool.

From where do you feel your paintings originate?

Susan: We travel a lot – to Ooty and Kerala. In Kerala, we go for walks in the forest. Athi roams around for hours. This relationship between him and the landscape evolves in painting.

Athi: My paintings are like abstract forms of landscape. I approach all my painting with the same attitude. Depending on the time and movement, a balance comes to the canvas. I always know how to start and when to end a painting, like a flower opening.

Till November 30 at Varija Art Gallery, Dakshinachitra (closed on Tuesdays).

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 12:53:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/athiveerapandian-shares-his-thoughts-about-his-art-and-life/article7919371.ece

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