A group of artists sat around a bonfire and spontaneously began sketching on a wall with a burning piece of wood, hardly realising something 'big' and meaningful could emerge out of this laidback activity. Nevertheless, this group of artists put their heart and soul over the last six months to create a new set of paintings of enormous dimensions – with a height of eight feet, and a width of 12. These canvases were part of an exhibition titled “Nouveau 8/12” held at the Chitramayee Telangana State Fine Art Gallery, Hyderabad, between 11-21 November 2017.
It was evident that the largeness of the canvas provided each artist a greater scope for expression and to include even subtle details of the urban-rural or imaginary landscape. The artists were able to depict themes of their choice and retain their individual styles but their works blended harmoniously in the group show. They masterfully managed to lend their canvases a profound balance, where both unnecessary gaps and cluttered spaces were non-existent.
Shankar Pamarthy engaged most visitors as he peppered his diptych Luv Hyderabad with (Mario) Miranda-esque caricatures of scenes from the daily life and culture of the city, including the most familiar landmarks. Though Nirmala Bikula had also chosen the city as her subject in Mapping my City, she used old maps of Hyderabad’s Walled City as a reference, also bringing out the adverse impact of urbanisation on the Hussain Sagar lake and river Musi, once the lifelines to the city.
The Royal Gaze by Ravikanth Masuram stirred a sense of nostalgia with a montage of three paintings. Three seated women adorned in traditional jewellery in one, a younger prince holding a sword in another, and a third (other) woman gazing back at the viewer – all of which were layered with motifs in his trademark style. The adjacent wall was filled with a canvas presenting two larger-than-life portraits of rural story tellers in vibrant attires. Aptly titled Tale, Teller and Told, Laxman Aelay’s canvas is an extension of his research on traditions of folk art and seemed to capture the imagination of almost every spectator.
It was at Laxman Aelay’s farmhouse where the artists had initially met, and later floated an informal group called the Coal Group. A subsequent trip to the Kochi Bienniale worked like a shot in the arm, inspiring them to collaborate and bring to the art scene in Hyderabad an experience that would challenge the conventional. Keen to push their own boundaries, the group came up with an ambitious idea to have an art show, mounting canvases of 8' x 12', a size none of them had ever attempted.
Manvinder Dawer from the India Fine Art Gallery, Mumbai was entrusted the crucial responsibility of curation of this proposed art-show. “I love Hyderabad and the team of artists here are all my friends, so I jumped at the opportunity to help curate and showcase this fine group of young talented artists from the city,” revealed Manvinder.
In Crowded Isolation, Bharath Sayam, a 2015 National Award winner, fills his painting with energetic buffaloes in various postures. “This particular work echoes the urban milieu of loneliness where one is always surrounded, yet so isolated,” explains Bharath. He attributes his affinity to the forms of buffaloes, bulls and goats to his childhood experiences, and they have become a mainstay in his art. The details of a construction site on the periphery are suggestive of an undesirable effect of modernisation on livestock.
Narsimulu Kandi, pointing to his diptych titled Concurrent trends in my village explains, “This a typical scene at a village centre with a cross-section of people waiting for a bus and a tea-stall in the background.” In addition to the obvious differences in attire and jewellery of the young, old, rural and urban characters across his canvas, Narsimulu subtly highlights changes caused by development in the rural setting. “I have tried to portray how life in a village has changed over the last 15 or 20 years. The autorickshaw in the background, suggests reducing number of bullock-carts while small signboards of telecom companies hint at prepaid recharges being cheaper and more easily available than vegetables and groceries.”
Behind the scenes, this path-breaking show was not without its share of challenges. “Drawing on these enormous canvases was like creating a mural, we needed to be clear about what we were doing, and plan accordingly. We all met often, shared ideas and offered feedback and suggestions,” says Bharath while Narsimlu was quick to add that Laxman Aelay was the driving force and mentored them throughout.
Jayaprakash Doma, who has consistently featured the recurring motif of tiger in his creations, had always mulled over a possibility of a grand 18-tiger formation for his earlier shows. And Nouveau 8/12, he felt, was the perfect occasion to realise it. But he took on a huge challenge by choosing not to use a diptych. “Since I work with animal forms, there is a liberal use of sweeping lines and there is the risk of losing continuity and rhythm on diptych. Besides, it would be a futile effort if the lines did not align accurately in the end,” he reasoned. His canvas One Self in All Forms was created to inspire a sense of universality, echoed in “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma”— despite the outward differences, we are all essentially the same.
“There is more to look forward to for the Hyderabadi art connoisseurs in the near future,” Manvinder assures, “A retrospective of Surya Prakash, perhaps another show with the Coal Group, and a couple of solo-shows sometime next year,” he disclosed.
Anand Gadapa, Bharath Sayam, Bolgum Nagesh Goud, Jayaprakash Doma, Kumaraswamy Bhaktala, Laxman Aelay, Narsimlu Kandi, Nirmala Biluka, Ravikanth Masuram, Priti Samyukta, Priyanka Aelay, Shankar Pamarthy and Shivaramachary Yerraginnela had participated in the Nouveau 8/12 exhibition held at Chitramayee Telangana State Fine Art Gallery, Hyderabad, from 11-21 November, 2017.
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Updated Date: Nov 26, 2017 16:09:25 IST