The ex­pres­sion­is­tic jour­ney of an artist

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Crum­pled and coated with sand and grey pig­ment, these paint­ings have an in­her­ent “slow­ness” as the im­ages, of light­houses, fe­tal forms and neb­u­lous fig­ures, slowly emerge into view due to the way they catch light. Un­hur­ried and muf­fled, his paint­ings have the qual­ity of an echo where there is both a pres­ence and an ab­sence.

And now, In Search of Frag­ments, a solo show of paint­ings in mixed me­dia on can­vas and pa­per by one of the most cel­e­brated artists of the Madras Art Move­ment, C Dou­glas, traces the artist’s jour­ney from the 1990s to the re­cent years. The Akar Prakar Gallery, which has ear­lier ex­hib­ited his work in Kolkata and Chennai, is show­cas­ing his works now in the Cap­i­tal.

The col­lec­tion marks the time when he be­gan work­ing on his char­ac­ter­is­tic grey works, in­flu­enced by Ger­man Ex­pres­sion­ists. To him, this neu­tral colour rep­re­sented a lim­i­nal state that em­braced vul­ner­a­bil­ity over hero­ism and un­cer­tainty over fi­nal­ity.

He stains the pa­per with tea, crum­ples the pa­per to cre­ate tex­ture, stitches it and ap­plies sand. In a process that evokes the re­gen­er­a­tive metaphor of the earth and rain, he uses wa­ter-based pig­ments that pen­e­trate deeply, soak­ing the pa­per and fi­nally be­com­ing one with it.

In Dou­glas’ works in the last decade, there is a cleaner de­lin­eation of the fig­ure. Trans­for­ma­tion is a con­stant con­cern in his works, as Dou­glas makes repet­i­tive use of im­ages of but­ter­flies, co­coons and cater­pil­lars.

Dou­glas says, “There is so much of stress on the body in the South. San­tha­naraj’s work had bloody bleed­ing lines. Sim­i­larly Joseph James talks about Paniker’s ‘ner­vous lines’. They are like body or palm prints.” Born in Ker­ala in 1951, C. Dou­glas is one of the most col­lected artists of the Madras Art Move­ment. He re­tains the essence of Ker­ala in the form of the­o­ries and words read dur­ing his boy­hood.

Two of artist C Dou­glas’ works that are on dis­play at the ex­hi­bi­tion

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