Art review

Varied constancy

It has been quite a few years since S G Vasudev had an extensive exhibition in Bangalore. She Tree Tapestry in Silk by S G Vasudev.Especially that it comes after a break, his “Recollections Reconnections” at Crimson (February 8 to 29) once again makes evident the artist’s dedication to a number of thematic areas as well as formal motifs that recur throughout his over forty year-long career with a steady consistency relieved by slow and soft, yet equally constant, variations within his language.

This senior artist in a quiet, unobtrusive manner remains faithful to the broad spirit Indian modernism of the time when the independent country needed to establish an assertive self-image that would bridge the indigenous heritage and modern day aesthetics. Like his predecessors, Vasudev reached for an essentialist, generalised imagery to embrace the whole nation than the specific.

As a founder-member of Cholamadal, he looked for inspiration to classical Indian art with its symbols and manifestations of life. In contrast to both the often painful social perspective of the former and the almost literal assimilation of divine and ornamental elements by the latter, his national and Indological signage is fairly intimate and gently subdued, even playfully romantic in its universal shape, while the dominant joyful, affirmative stand subsumes also the darker or sadder aspects of existence.

So, Vasudev’s world is one populated by innocent lover couples among fecund vegetation and vivacious animals, the generative sustenance of life being best embodied by the delicate, attuned profiles of female heads and slightly rougher male ones. The ever growing and withering tree signifies the existential cycle to be complemented later by the theme of the theatre of life.

Form-wise, Vasudev relies on the pronounced outline whose stylisation mediates early European paradigms and indigenous sources to juxtapose and connect with a large dose of abstraction as atmospheric background or rhythmic patterns of decorations, also as diffused, textured figures. Although primarily a painter, the artist works in many other media, each in way characteristic to itself interpreting the same basis.

In the current display, it is the tapestries that closely continue the main structure and motifs of his mainstream oils on canvas. Under the deft hands of the master weaver Subbarayulu, the otherwise somewhat cute painting contours acquire a rougher but noble throb.

The agreeable impact of the paintings becomes openly translated by the artisanship of the decorative. Whilst the elegance of the silk is uplifted by its rawness, the flat images gain their specific, mildly compressed plasticity thanks to the woven tonal differentiations, parallel auras or shadows around the forms and some negative-white lines.

The small drawings in pen and ink on paper too seem unabashedly pleasant, as Vasudev rejoices in sweet, pensively sensuous femininity and the pulsation of plants, birds and foliage that pleasurably conjure repeated, wavering designs around and within figures and dotted punctuations of mood and animation amid the air of the sheet’s expanse.

Their folkloristic design tendency can be touching, since the fluidity of the stroke is somewhat reined in by a tinge of coarseness.

Although the new paintings prove the greatest degree of innovation, they may attract the least. The familiar forms there undergo much abstracting, diffused, hazy and nearly disappearing under a profusion of filtered illumination and obscure, shadowy tonalities. The oscillation between lucid, linear silhouettes and painterly blurring, between opacity and water colour effect, between smoothness and textures may perhaps be a little too indulgent.


Buddhist inspirations

The joint exhibition by a young family of Devipriya, Vimalanathan and their little daughter Raveena Jesica (CKP, February 14 to 18) had something moving in its collective gesture and sincerity that transferred spiritual inspiration from Buddhism onto a loving attitude to life.

A direct and maybe too obvious exposition of the source came from Vimalanathan whose largish canvases portrayed the Buddha in a variety of slightly different configurations and conventional references to his sculptural representations.

The colourful images had the icon in poses of meditation, while ornamental floral designs over it meant to exude gentleness, serene joy and communion with nature. As much as one empathised with the ideals, their expression appeared not only literal but also naïve at that.

One could assume that Devipriya’s sculptures in metal referred to the same inspiration, as they strove to convey aspirations and moods around grasping for beauty and purity symbolised by the lotus. The elongated palms holding, supporting, sheltering or reaching towards flowers were like new mudras perhaps, but they focussed excessively on nice signifying and just nice form rather than sheer suggestiveness or suggestiveness containing concept.

The abstracts by the three year old, even if perhaps a little steered, had a child’s free naturalness, effectively mounted box-like.

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