The expressionistic journey of an artist
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