Contemplative canvases

KNIFE IN Water or Underwater Fish Trade is a segment of a larger work done earlier. A poignant expression of a society on the verge of breaking down, it testifies that the annihilation has not always been of its own making. The "State sponsored terrorism" in Gujarat affected E.Sudhakaran so deeply that he leads you through his works, almost by the finger, as he explains their significance. Indeed he has to; his works are steeped in a symbolism that is hard to fathom sans guidance.

Contemplative canvases

Obsessed by the trauma that has engulfed the western state; he has been forced to repeatedly chronicle it since the controversy over Sardar Sarovar Dam gained ground. In Knife in Water he portrays a society that is submerged in water, as all life in the affected areas is expected to be. But even as this happens it refuses to be subjugated, carrying on regardless; as the fisherman selling his catch seems to demonstrate. In a pathetic way, he draws succour from his daily trade. The battering continues. This time it is the communal riots that assail the region. So wretched is their situation that even underwater, there is no escape from an ominous knife that lurks in the ocean.

The trouble-torn State features in a number of works. The brightly-coloured gas cylinders carry a threatening motive in Departure I as they were used to burn buildings during the riots. Atop are a bunch of graceless flowers that sit on graves of meaningless deaths. Below a trail of ants represents an army of inhabitants fleeing from it all. Their agony continues in Departure II, where Sudhakaran borrows freely from the German expressionist painter, Max Beckman who was thrown out of Germany by Hitler. People run helter-skelter to get away from the armed hoodlums; a boy is mercilessly stabbed while an old woman in the foreground looks on helplessly. The colours are dark and foreboding and their flat application heightens this feeling of apprehension.

Contemplative canvases

Exhausted, the artist looks for a change of scene. He paints a seemingly harmless picture of a little girl with toys. The gun amongst the toys is a give away of his mania for all things terrifying. In When I looked into the Mirror on February 28, 2002, he invites the viewer to participate in his art. The face, again with references to Hitler, is drawn on glass. At another level it recalls the story of Medusa who could be killed only by seeing the reflection in the mirror.

Sudhakaran's art is grim and contemplative, albeit at times lacking depth. He sees life with a seriousness that gets transported into his canvases. His figures are allegorical, like in Kannamboth where a native folklore becomes the subject matter of his painting. The exhibition is on at Gallery `B', Durbar Hall, till Nov 16.


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