A DI­A­LOGUE WITH ARTIST K. R. SAN­THANA KR­ISH­NAN

Each door has myr­iad tales to nar­rate.

Woman's Era - - Contents - Su­man Bajpai

AChen­nai-based artist K.r. san­thana kr­ishna, through his unique pre­sen­ta­tion, he recre­ates the tac­tile feel of old, weath­ered or dirty plas­tered walls that are of­ten seen in ru­ral In­dia. Be­ing a typ­i­cal south In­dian artist, he be­lieves in trea­sur­ing the her­itage and cul­ture that our an­ces­tors built. He ob­tained his bach­e­lor’s de­gree from Col­lege of Fine Arts, Kum­bakonam, and mas­ter’s from Col­lege of Fine Art, Chen­nai. His work re­volves around the en­trance of a home – the Doors. Painted in florid blue, flam­ing red, ca­nary yel­low and par­rot green, San­thana Kr­ish­nan’s door­frames en­sconce a world of mem­o­ries. To­day, his art is in pub­lic and pri­vate col­lec­tions and he has done sev­eral group and solo shows in In­dia, Dubai and Bos­ton.

Ex­cerpts from an in­ter­view: You are fas­ci­nated by the con­cept of ‘door’, how and when and your in­cli­na­tion to­wards it grow and why?

Doors are truly a win­dow to our world. It is the first thing we pass when we are step­ping into our own homes. I grew up in a large house that had many doors. Each of them had its own iden­tity. Some had stained glass. Some had cal­en­dars on hooks be­hind, oth­ers looked like paint­ings. I re­mem­ber there was one large door in our fam­ily home and my grand­mother used to spend a whole day clean­ing the carv­ing and the work on it. I used to cy­cle to col­lege and ad­mire the many dif­fer­ent kinds of doors I passed along the way. They used to fas­ci­nate me then as they fas­ci­nate me now. I did my first door paint­ing while I was still in col­lege and I have not felt any pres­sure to change my sub­ject. Even now when I travel, my eyes are al­ways search­ing for doors in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. The mo­tifs on the doors evoke nos­tal­gia in the eyes of the be­holder.

For the past 18 years I have been paint­ing on this theme. I be­lieve

that a door speaks vol­umes. It can ei­ther be wide open invit­ing you in with warmth and hap­pi­ness or it can be closed or hide a mil­lion se­crets. A door says words that man can­not say. It tell-us about the past and the voices that echo in the rooms in­spire me to paint the first vi­tal as­pect of a house – The Door. A door is an ev­ery­day thing. It is such a ne­ces­sity that we don’t for once stop to think of it as an in­di­vid­ual el­e­ment with beauty. I wanted to look at it aes­thet­i­cally.

The con­cept ‘doors’ was for me to give the next gen­er­a­tion what is dis­ap­pear­ing from to­day's world as well as to bring back mem­o­ries for many. In this fast mov­ing world, I want them to stop for a mo­ment to rec­ol­lect their past. Each door has a tale to nar­rate of the house, its own­ers and their lives. Even the ex­te­rior sur­faces of the doors have myr­iad tales to nar­rate.

How do you con­nect your­self with your paint­ings?

Through my paint­ings I try to make a strong plea to­wards keep­ing fresh the mem­ory of a tra­di­tion of craft, re­flect­ing an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of mean­ing with the cul­ture the­o­rists adopt­ing the term space to re­fer to the so­cial and psy­cho­log­i­cal at­tributes of a place, as the in­stance of the doors of the houses which not only re­flected the so­cial po­si­tion of its owner but served as a space to in­scribe var­ied in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the oc­cu­pants of the house as the num­ber, elec­tric­ity de­tails, vac­ci­na­tion dates etc. I con­nect with my paint­ings as it is ges­ture to­wards the grad­ual re­place­ment with con­tem­po­rary de­signs and ma­te­ri­als also.

Most of the paint­ings show hal­fopen doors, what is the sig­nif­i­cance be­hind this?

Yes, most of the paint­ings show half-open doors that lead view­ers to the scenes that are framed by the doors. But none of my paint­ings or works has peo­ple in it. None­the­less, my paint­ings bus­tle with life and hint at the busy hands that shape the life in­side and out­side the houses. Tulsi tha­ras in in­ner court­yards, milk cans, kerosene lamps, wooden boxes, and clothes dry­ing …faint white num­bers and let­ters on the doors again give us clues about the in­hab­i­tants of those res­i­dences.

What medium do you pre­fer most?

I have so far done 800 doors in mixed me­dia, acrylics and 3D ver­sions on real doors re­plete with locks.

You weave re­al­ity and imag­i­na­tion in your can­vasses, what are you try­ing to de­pict with this idea?

I had tried to de­pict in my paint­ings the side walls ad­ja­cent to the doors, ap­pro­pri­at­ing the space as a can­vas for the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of pop­u­lar cul­ture. By recre­at­ing a strong tac­tile feel of the old with­ered or dirty plas­tered walls, and its sur­face painted with im­agery de­rived from pop­u­lar cul­ture as film posters of the 70s, the ubiq­ui­tous im­ages of the god­desses from Ravi Verma’s cal­en­dar art, the ad­ver­tise­ment of ABT Par­cel car­ri­ers or the Maruti Trav­ellers with Hanu­man car­ry­ing the part of the moun­tain con­tain­ing the San­jee­vani herbs, I con­tend with an­other art form jux­ta­posed in my work. In­ter­fac­ing with pop­u­lar cul­ture brings in my art the realm of post moder­nity and the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the sa­cred im­ages, thus evac­u­at­ing it of its aura to es­tab­lish as pop­u­lar im­agery. The weav­ing of re­al­ity and imag­i­na­tion in the con­tour­ing of my vis­ual lan­guage opens space in my com­po­si­tions to fore­ground an aes­thetic of shared com­mon cul­ture namely my re­al­is­tic style and the pop­u­lar art. Through these I am recre­at­ing a nos­tal­gic space which con­tin­ues in the present as my rein­vented painted im­agery.

What kind of colours do you like to use?

My colours also sing of the ver­nac­u­lar bor­der­ing al­most on the pop­u­lar. The colours are gar­ish with bright yel­low ochres, deep blood reds, muddy van dyck browns, singing blues, ash greys, royal pur­ples, deep pinks and blues and sun set or­anges.

What in­spired you?

It was the works of Ben­gali artist San­jay Bhat­tacharya who in­spired me to en­ter the world of in­te­ri­ors as viewed through a door. Tak­ing off on that premise, the artist opened mul­ti­ple lay­ers of in­ner and outer spaces to cre­ate a space of views. As the artist’s wish is to ex­plore more in­te­ri­ors in In­dia, looks like this is his open se­same to cre­ativ­ity. You can see all that in my up­com­ing solo show on 15th De­cem­ber at the Fo­cus Art Gallery, Chen­nai.

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