Facts and fiction. These vie for equal space in artist V.G. Venugopal’s works. Issues such as urban migration, encroachment and displacement are reflected in the Bangalore-based artist’s watercolour paintings. For instance, the series titled ‘Transit’, displayed as part of the ongoing solo exhibition Factual Fictions, includes silhouettes of men and women floating in space and lugging their suitcases.
The artist tells us it was a conscious decision to take away the ground beneath their feet — symbolic of uncertain decisions and dreams. “Nobody clearly knows where they are going. They just have aspirations; they move to the cities to chase them. Sometimes they realise them, sometimes they don’t,” says Venugopal.
What explains this best is probably the large frame of a golden deer galloping away, with a translucent sack carrying what appears to be a whole city. “What many do not realise is that their dreams are as elusive as a mythical golden deer,” he says. Venugopal was at an artist’s exchange camp (organised by Theertha Red Dot Gallery) in Sri Lanka last year, when he began using the deer as an element in his works. “It’s a pick from The Ramayana . Remember the deer that lures Sita to cross the line?” he asks. Later, the deer started to be a part of most of his works. Just like floating islands, white wrapping sheets, and a blue T-shirt, which have been recurring elements in his previous works.
Venugopal was born in Valakkunja, a remote village in Kasaragod district of North Kerala. Gradually, he moved away from his roots. “I did my high school in a place that was around eight km from the village, and my college (Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts) in Mysore. Eventually, I shifted to Bangalore,” says the artist, who is a recipient of the Magmart VII Video Art Festival Award, Naples, Italy. These instances, he confesses, slip into his works, subconsciously from time to time. “For any person, who has migrated to a metropolitan city from a rural area, there is a craving to go back. But he cannot, given his commitments,” he says.
Venugopal, like most others, fought the urge to go back, and instead poured it into his works. Scenes from his native place pop up in a few of his works, such as Green Carpet, which features a flight of stairs similar to the one outside the house where he grew up.
“In reality, the stairs were laid with mud and local stones, but in my picture, I rolled out a green carpet over it. Climb to the highest rung, and you will see the skyline of the city,” he explains his painting. It suggests the villagers’ aspiration to migrate to metropolitan cities.
After a moment’s thought, he says, “That is just my interpretation. I get several theories about my works from the viewers. It’s like the painting Nude Descending a Staircase by Marcel Duchamp. I remember what my professor said about that: the rest of the world might take it as the title is, but for an Arab who reads from right to left, the nude might be ascending. It’s how the eyes see it,” he says.
The exhibition is on at Gallery Veda @ Shilpa Architects, Thiruvanmiyur, till August 31.