In bright block prints, lemon-yellow dots, black and white, and shades of orange, the cow in P. Gnana's paintings looks at the world sometimes with an amiable air and sometimes like a detached observer. And throwing light on its long, delicate neck and the psychedelic patterns on its body is the moon that plays the role of muse or spotlight.
The herbivore's constant presence in his art is not an accident. It revives fond memories of a childhood spent in Neyveli. It also symbolises the emotional undercurrents that run through his paintings. “You see, the cows are metaphors for emotions. They have the liberty to transcend their form and play various roles such as observer and companion. Emotion has the same attribute; changing according to circumstance, without a permanent place to reside in,” says the Singapore-based artist.
And his cows aren't ordinary creatures. Their bodies are painted in bright, earthy tones, in a sequence of patterns. “I rejoice in manipulating the versatility of colours. Colour is the basic source of energy for a work of art — whether it is flamboyant or not. And I see no reason why the metaphorical cows in my art need to be deprived of an association with such dynamic energy,” Gnana explains.
Gnana's stone and metal sculptures of human beings, owls and cows are three-dimensional. But it's not just paint that adorns the cows and, sometimes, the backdrop of many of his paintings. They are a collage of different textures. “About 16 years ago, in the early phase of my career as an artist, I would actively use the collage technique. Now, after more than a decade, the technique has started to intrigue me again. Experimentation is my cup of tea, especially when it's done with a concept in mind.”
Complementing the cow, the human beings that liven up his paintings, bubbling with desires and moods, express them clearly, but not through their eyes. “The challenge lies in bringing out intense emotion without directly depicting the windows to the heart, which are the eyes,” he says, adding, “the emotion in my art is all-encompassing without the need for stereotypical symbols. I feel that the unparalleled intensity of an emotion can be suggested even by eyes that are closed.”
P. Gnana's art show is on till October 6 at Art World Sarala's Art Centre, Ganeshpuram 3rd Street, Chennai (Behind Cenotaph Road Café Coffee Day)