I was a painter and fine-arts student for close to ten years after finishing high school in Chennai, India. My terminal degree is a post-graduate diploma in fine arts, with specialization in painting.
Soon after however, my acute sensitivity to the deeply challenging political, social and economic issues facing India took me to more than a decade of full time social activism on sustainable development, first among the slum-women of Chennai and then with the internationally respected Magsaysay Award and Templeton Prize winner Baba Amte in the rural areas of Central India. When I eventually returned to the world of art, I realized that the intervening years had changed my relationship to art. While as an art student at Chennai, abstraction was my passion. Now, living in Mumbai, I found myself searching for a way to combine my passion for art with my commitment to examining the human-nature interface.
Thus was born the GAIA series, comprising of three parts: EARTH 2010, WATER 2015 and AIR-SKY in process. Each presented immense visual possibilities. It required that I strike a balance between expressing how I felt about issues and yet producing works that stood by themselves as pieces of art.
While the EARTH series celebrated the utopian beauty of nature as seen in the great mangrove wilderness, the WATER series drew attention to the dystopian beauty of a post-apocalyptic nature. Yes, nature is a great survivor: time is on her side, not on the side of Homo Sapiens.
I believe strongly in the virtue of painterly quality, especially the elaboration of color. A word is in order here about my painting technique. I build the work organically through layers and layers of color application. Tones are achieved through sensitive mixing of colors and an awareness of how the underlying tones of the earlier layers of paint respond to the application of the latest layer. Often this has led to thrilling discoveries of fresh and unique microtones of color, resulting in the supra-dense employment of shaded dots of varying tonalities and hues. The subtlety of tints and shades juxtaposed with pristine whites translates also as light, making the composition come alive.
While the first collection on EARTH was painting-dominated, the second collection on WATER, though largely consisting of paintings, was led by a huge installation. The installation, in the collection on WATER, used the medium of clear resin in a scale and manner that has not been attempted in India. This gave the collection an extraordinary and unique dimension. The installation is cast, not fabricated. In it are embedded ‘found objects’, the detritus like artifacts of contemporary human life, symbolizing a dystopic aquatic life-form. Is that where our planet is headed?
I then started work on capping the GAIA series with a meditation on AIR & SKY and the pollution our species has inflicted on it, resulting in global warming. BUT COVID LOCKDOWN happened in March 2020, forcing me for personal reasons to relocate to Chennai for the duration of the pandemic. In Chennai, I was without my equipped painting studio and my computer.
But I HAD TO, HAD TO paint. In retrospect, I think the lockdown was most serendipitous. I returned to the bare basics of painting. Brush, paper, watercolor, acrylic. With no agenda or theme in mind. I let myself free and discovered a vital facet to my art.
I departed from meticulous analytical pointillist technique, through division of color and tones, to be absolutely free with watercolor technique as well as in the acrylic medium, rendered on paper. From themes based on nature such as forests, mangroves and underwater, I painted in a landscape of pure imagination. Forms and colors internalized over decades of work poured out in a free dance of brush strokes, with various colors, tints and tones.
The watercolor medium offered me a challenge of working quickly and with spontaneity, which I deeply desired after a couple of decades of calculated painting. In my passionate exploration into the infinite world of color, I was determined to avoid repetition of brushwork, color tints and tones. And yet as I created an interweaving web of fresh colors, line emerged as a protagonist and provided strong compositional structure.
As 2021 dawns, I feel as if I am quietly and subconsciously listening to mysterious whispers of the color memory of decades, while I paint this series. This series evokes the transient patterns of color that the eye registers when a brilliantly tinted butterfly flits in an infinitely colorful garden. Hence the title of the series: BUTTERFLY IN A FLOWER GARDEN.
2015 “Gaia Reloaded,” Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2012 Apparao Art Gallery, Chennai, India
2010 “GAIA”, Jehangir Art Gallery and Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2007 India Habitat Centre, Visual Art Gallery, New Delhi, India
2007 Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2006 Museum Art Gallery & Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2020 Online show ‘Nature’, Gallery Veda, Chennai, India
2020 Online show ‘Dhanapal Centenary’, BCRAF, Chennai, India
2019 Cancer Patients’ Aid fundraiser show, Cymroza Gallery, Mumbai, India
2019 ‘Shapes of Memories’, Gallery Veda, Chennai, India
2019 Potpourri, Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2018 ‘Meditation on N-Vironment’ Reves Art Gallery, Bangalore, India
2018 ‘Scapes’, Hirji Gallery, Mumbai, India
2018 Ahmedabad Art Fair, Ahmedabad, India
2018 Mumbai Gallery Art Weekend, India
2017 Busan Art Fair, Busan, South Korea
2017 ‘Another way’, Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2015 ‘Potpourri’, Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2015 The 377191 Wall’, Kashish and Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2015 India Art Fair, New Delhi, India
2014 Affordable Art Fair, New York, USA
2013 India Art Festival, Mumbai, India
2013 Retrospective of Indian Masters, Ahmedabad, India
2013 Integrated Inception, Art Konsult, New Delhi, India
2013 ‘The Embedded Landscape”, Religare Art Gallery, New Delhi, India
2012 “CONCRESCENCE”, Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi, India
2012 India Art Festival, Mumbai, India
2011 India Art Festival in Mumbai, India
2009 “Pandora’s Box,” Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2008 Art Expo, Mumbai, India
2008 “A Gathering,” Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2006 “Ye Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan,” Art Konsult New Delhi, India
2005 Miniprint Show, Cadaques, Barcelona, Spain
2002 Harmony Show, Mumbai, India
2001 Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi, India
2001 Cymroza Gallery, Mumbai, India
2001 Dhanapal Retrospective, Chennai, India
2001 'Indiart' at Rossi & Rossi Gallery, London, UK
2000 Art Access Week, Birla Century Bhavan, Mumbai, India
2000 Sumukha Gallery, Bangalore, India
1999 Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, India
1984 Russian Cultural Centre Exhibition, Chennai, India
1983 Chitra Kala Parishad, Bangalore, India
1983 Tamil Nadu Nunkalai kuzhu, Chennai, India’
1982 Tamil Nadu Nunkalai kuzhu, Chennai, India
1982 AIFACS Graphics exhibition, Kala Mela, Delhi, India,
1982 National Exhibition of Art at Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi, India
1982 Bombay Art Society Exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery Mumbai, India
1981 Chennai Art Club Exhibition at Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai, India
1979 Chennai Art Club Exhibition at Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai, India
2017 ‘Excavating Odisha’, interactive urban and folk art, Puri, India
2014 Aalloa Art Camp, Ahmedabad, India
2012 Walden Pond Camp, Kochi, India
2011 Oberoi Art Camp, Mumbai, India
2008 Le Royal Meridian, Camp, Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
2007 Le Royal Meridian, Camp, Gallery Beyond, Mumbai, India
1984-1985 P. G D.F.A. College of Arts & Crafts University of Madras, India
1979-1984 D.F.A College of Arts & Crafts University of Madras, India
1976-1979 B.F.A. from Stella Maris College University of Madras, India