A DIALOGUE WITH ARTIST K. R. SANTHANA KRISHNAN
Each door has myriad tales to narrate.
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.