Wednesday 29 February 2012

Read about: Jagath Weerasinghe's 'Shiva' II (2007) @ The Noble Sage

‘Shiva’ II (2007) by Jagath Weerasinghe
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 24 inches
Let me wax lyrical for a moment about this wonderful piece in the collection by Jagath Weerasinghe. Titled ‘Shiva’ and painted in 2007, this work is clearly a depiction of the classical Hindu image of ‘Shiva Nataraja’, Lord Shiva dancing within a ring of fire symbolic of the cosmic and eternal cycle of life and death, that that allows to the world to carry on as it does. It is a classical image that I am very used to personally having seen it in my local temple in Archway since I was a small boy. It also played a large part in the tours I used to give at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts (@BarberInstitute) where they had a striking bronze Nataraja on the way up the stairs. Although the dance of all dances is depicted in this classical Hindu image, one that can literally change/end the world if it ends, the depiction brings some relief when one stands before it. Personally I feel time slow down as I see these many arms and legs raised mid-flow. We feel at peace looking at it. Such feelings are turned on their head when one looks at the charged image of Weerasinghe’s Nataraja. One notes first that it is only the lower half of the deity (and some of the arms) that is depicted and the ring of fire around the figure is also lost as is the character of ‘Apasmarapurusha’ from beneath the stamp of Shiva’s right foot, a character symbolic of sloth, confusion and forgetfulness. Concentration is given by Weerasinghe to the legs, the limbs that create and destroy with its dance. Looking at the work, one cannot help but relate the violence of the technique and the moody, depressive choice of colour to this corporeal focus. Few artists would take a brush doused in black paint to the blank canvas like Weerasinghe bravely does. The very nature of the colour is destructive to other colours as much as it is to the canvas. The colour is so deafening that one can very rarely see colours below it or above it. It is such a claustrophobic and overwhelming colour that one might not even notice colours next to it when it is put down, let alone the original colour of the canvas. In this way, Weerasinghe is rebellious, flying in the face of convention, seemingly uncaring and undeterrable. His technique matches his choice in colour. It is violent and aggressive. One is reminded by Francis Bacon at points perhaps. The movements of blackness depict the fervour of the dance. It is not something as uniquely peaceful (though paradoxically dynamic) as we are used to in the classical form. This Shiva’s dance seems frenetic and unstoppable, perhaps out of control, involving the whole body in convulsion. We the audience are not given peace, time is not slowed down for us, if anything we become aware of the angst, confusion, rush and disarray of life around us. It is clear that Weerasinghe is attempting to face us with a harsh reality, a bitter truth. Being an artist hailing from Sri Lanka one can tell that this work (part of a series of Shivas created the artist) is certainly highly political in meaning. On the one hand one wonders if the painting of the work was a cathartic experience for the artist, allowing him to take out his aggression at the status quo. Or else, whether it is a dark wish for things to start again, by any means necessary. 
For more works by Jagath Weerasinghe, click here.          

Friday 24 February 2012

Read about this work: 'Untitled' (2007) by T. Athiveerapandian

‘Untitled’ (2007) by T. Athiveerapandian

Acrylic on canvas

43 x 45 inches


I wanted to jot down some of my thoughts in relation to this dramatic new canvas by T. Athiveerapandian that just entered the collection. I say it is new but it is a 2007 canvas that I acquired from a very good friend of mine who in turn bought them from some other dealers. It has enjoyed a great journey before arriving at The Noble Sage. I am so glad it is with me now as there is no better place for it to be appreciated and no audience more discerning than that of The Noble Sage to critique an Athiveerapandian canvas. This is our 43rd canvas of my Chennai artist Athiveerapandian to grace our walls. That means that our audiences have literally seen more of the evolution of this painter than anyone on the planet! And what an artist to follow. From recognisable close-up images of flowers and petals and such in 2006 to this: what can only be described as the abstract opera of nature – powerful, rich and deftly orchestrated for a sublime effect. There are three wonderful 2012 canvases soon to be framed which show his development from 2007 but it has to be said that 2007 was a good year for Athiveerapandian. It was the biggest leap forward for his abstraction. With our regular patronage, the artist was able to free himself in his art from the hold of figuration and branch out into nearly pure colour with lessening relationship to its starting points in nature. We can still see the abstract renderings of foliage in green central in the canvas, and the top right of the canvas feels like a wave caught mid-ebb. Indeed, the red reminds me of the heat ofchennai and the yellow the hot sun. But this for all sense and purposes is an abstract canvas where the artist is revelling in his new expressive freedom. I wish you could see this every day like I do. It makes me wish I could paint abstracts, have this kind of mastery. The canvas must really look limitless to Athiveerapandian when it is empty of paint. It must be so silent to make it sing as he does. Jana Manuelpillai

For more works by T. Athiveerapandian, click here.          

Read about Manisha Raju's 'Pandit II' (2007)


Pandit II (2007) by Manisha Raju
Pastel on paper
17 x 12 inches
It is in fact rare that I take pastel works into the gallery. In fact apart from Sri Lankan artist, Anoma, who is really a mixed media artist who utilises soft and hard pastels when appropriate, Manisha Raju was the first artist to work in this medium that I brought into the collection. There is no real reason why this medium has been passed over. Indeed the only work I have up on the wall by me is a pastel work. I think if anything I have been waiting for just the right artist that would add to the collection and have a mastery over this difficult medium. Manisha Raju’s stunning pastel paintings on paper were exactly that. She shows a soft, delicate technique that makes the most of the medium as well as the subject matter, adding an imaginary halo around the religious characters she chooses. Pandit II (2007) is s a lovely piece by all accounts. A simple head and shoulders profile portrait, Raju is able to mirror this holy man’s honourable and religious character in her idealisation of form. His skin is blemishless, silky smooth: no pastel mark is decipherable so the final image has the feeling of something so perfect it defies the creative power of an artist. It makes me think of Da Vinci and Botticelli in this way. The arch of the eyebrow, seemingly plucked and sculpted, echoes the curve of the closed eye, long and sublimely elegant like the beautiful chin. The nose points slightly upwards and the lips are full, red and purt. Even the ear, most awkward of facial attributes, is smoothed out to appear as perfectly proportioned as the swan neck below it. We know this is a ‘pandit’, a Hindu priest, not only from the title but by the shaved head and bob of hair at the back and the holy string across one shoulder. Perhaps there is a hint given also by the earring… or perhaps I am imagining it. The colour in his lips, the rouge of his cheeks, and the red ruby in his ear, all appears to resonate outward around his profile. His form is brought forward by Raju with darkened shading around the head, a reverse halo one might say. It is as if this priest is so good and pure that no circle of light is necessary. I wanted Raju in the collection as she took great advantage of the pastel medium to tell of the inner beauty of the soul and the external beauty that comes of the elevated, educated and religious mind. There was no one in the gallery’s collection that did this so eloquently. Jana Manuelpillai

To view more works by Manisha Raju in the collection, click: