Saturday, January 21, 2012

Man in search of his soul

Four artistes concentrate on the negative side of life, and the turbulence of emotions

Photos: K.P. Pradeep Kumar standing next to his 'Transfigurations-3'; K.A. Benny's untitled acrylic on canvas

By Shevlin Sebastian

When you enter the David Hall in Kochi , for the exhibition, 'Paintings and Paperworks’, the first work that catches the eye is K.P. Pradeep Kumar's 'Transfigurations-3'. It is an oil on canvas, drawn in rich green colours, which shows a group of Kerala women, wearing white sarees, with umbrellas covering half their faces, standing in rows.

In the first line there are eight, then it becomes one less in the second, till there are only three on the last row. It looks like a Roman legion. But Pradeep Kumar says that the intention is to resemble the roof of the house.

On all sides are trees that lay uprooted, their roots exposed. Clearly, it is a message about nature getting despoiled and women acting as a symbol of regeneration. Pradeep Kumar has also done several charcoal and pastel drawings with a woman as the central character, on handmade rice paper, which he procured from the Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, Gujarat .

Meanwhile, artist NN Mohandas concentrates on simple subjects. In 'Park-2', an oil on canvas, he has drawn a young man, with shades of black around his eyes, sitting next to a middle-aged man, with wild, distraught eyes on a bench in a park. Right in front of them are flowering plants growing in red pots. It is drawn in light pastel shades and is an apt commentary on modern life.

“People are consumed by worry that they are unable to enjoy life,” says Mohandas. “Unlike the men, the plants are growing serenely, effortlessly, and at peace.”

'Beach' by Mohandas is also a microcosm of life. A man and a woman are sitting on a bench at the
beach. But the man sits, with his chin placed on his knuckles, in the manner of Auguste Rodin's ‘Thinker’, while the woman looks away. Clearly, this is a marriage in crisis. Blue waves are moving around forcefully – a metaphor for the emotional turbulence within the couple. “I have been inspired by Edvard Munch,” says Mohandas. The Norwegian Symbolist painter's stated goal was “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self.”

T.C. Joshy's acrylic on canvas shows a neat and simple drawing of the facade of a house with a tin roof. A chair is placed next to a barely-opened door. There is an empty bed with a blue counterpane on the verandah, apart from pieces of wood, a tube light on the wall, and a window which looks into darkness. From the outside, it looks like an empty house, yet, there is a feeling that life is pulsating within the four walls.

“This is the exterior of a fish shop in Kottayam,” says Joshy. “It was deserted on a Sunday morning. Although when I did the sketches, I did feel there was somebody inside.”

K.A. Benny's untitled acrylic on canvas, done in thick, bold strokes, shows a man walking on the parapet of what looks like a well, weighed down by a large cloth which trails behind him. At one end, there is a tense-looking cricket, as well as snails.

If you look into the crevice, you can see a band of sunlight, while all around it is water, with rock formations sticking out. Looking above, you can see a darkened farmhouse, with sloping roofs, rolling grasslands and thick, smothering black clouds. Two owls are perched on a tree trunk. There is a forbidding air about the picture, as if life is a series of hurdles to be surmounted, although there are moments when the sun shines through.

“Yes, there is a feeling of nostalgia and sadness,” says Benny. “I was recalling my life in Idukki, where I spent many years. I now stay in Wayanad and work for a bamboo co-operative. It is a delving into old memories. In Idukki, near the dam, there are many man-made constructions which are like huge holes. I used that image as the inspiration.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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