Wednesday 11 April 2012

Read about S. Ravi Shankar's ‘Theradi Theru, Triplicane (Car Street)’ II (2011)

‘Theradi Theru, Triplicane (Car Street)’ II (2011) by S. Ravi Shankar
Pen and ink on paper
22 x 29 inches

Looking at this wonderful pen and ink drawing by the once-etcher S. Ravi Shankar, we are truly transported. What at first glance looks like an image of an ancient Hindu ceremony out in the villages of India, is actually located visually and textually by the artist. First by the three floor buildings in the far background, confining the foreground action, no landscape to be seen, and secondly by the title ‘Theradi Theru’ meaning ‘Car Street’, a particular street in Triplicane a highly built up area of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Rather than this being placed ambiguously in the past, ambiguous in location and content, Shankar actually gives us rather a lot of information. The street is called ‘Car Street’ because ‘car’ in Tamil translates as chariot and this street is known for Hindu chariot seen in the background. It is still known today for this feature and for this Hindu processional ceremony. We know this is a recent memory recorded on paper as into the arm of the enigmatic priest in the foreground, Shankar writes that this is a good friend of his. Indeed in other past works Shankar has chosen this friend turned Hindu priest as a main subject. I know from discussion with Shankar that this friend is of particular interest to the artist as he was a very different character and personality when he was young and today has changed into this very pious and transformed figure. We see Shankar’s interest in the duality that our lives can finally show, sometimes an unbelievable dichotomy. For me what is most interesting about this work is the drama that Shankar builds around this main character. There is a real sense that his friend is now a man of the people, a leader of faith, and more literally a directional force for the procession that day. Sound is provided by the drummer boy-priest to his side, other worshipping eyes stare forward from behind him whilst others look to the deities in the chariot in all their glory. It is of course the priest in the foreground who really captures our attention. His seeing eyes raised to the heavens, above us the viewer, the work is filled by his spirituality and the meaningfulness of his role. Do we sense the artist’s envy of his friend’s position? Can an artist ever lead like this?

RAVI SHANKAR: BACK TO HIS CHILDHOOD solo show opens Friday 20th April 2012, 6-8.30pm. To attend or find out more email                
For more works by S. Ravi Shankar, click here.          

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