C.N. Karunakaran's works reflect the complex manner in which art is incorporated into every aspect of Indian life.
Photo: S. Mahinsha
DECORATIVE PATH: C.N. Karunakaran feels that an emphasis on the regional and the local is rejuvenating the art scene.
Journeying from the intricate and embellished to the simpler forms seems to be the course taken by artist C.N. Karunakaran, who is also Chairman of the Lalitakala Akademi.
His latest works, on display at Suryakanti Gallery in Thiruvananthapuram, convey the evolution of the artist. A tempering in the handling of his figures and colours strikes at the first instance. If art is to carry the signature of both its author and the times, then these works do not speak that language. The path he has chosen has been decorative and beautiful.
Spirit of the times
Karunakaran has his own take on an artist's expression. "The fantasy world is also a part that exists alongside the dreary," and the contemporary need not necessarily intrude to convey the spirit of the times.
What is the difference, if any, that one perceives in the frames on display. The colours are muted, the frames are no more crowded with filigree-like intricate elements. The forms retain their Indian touch but shorn of embellishments and the women grow closer to the earthy.
Earlier there was the effort to imbue them with an ethereal, classical beauty, that has given way to simpler lines, and shapes. According to Karunakaran, the pull of tradition has seen him make shifts in the works.
If in the early stages it was by learning from the European traditions and the aim was to fall into that groove, the evolutionary process began when he turned to works inspired by Kerala's cultural idiom.
"Change cannot be avoided. Modernity can best be defined as that which is independently executed. Despite the universal appeal of art, it is the complex manner in which art is incorporated into every aspect of Indian life that provides the energy to create, drawing from practices as rooted as theyyam and thira," says Karunakaran. It is a cumulative memory unravelling itself on the frames.
"Every frame is a continuum of the journey of the mind," he explains. He carries forward the images that continue to linger in his mind after one work is complete, and these find space in succeeding works.
The mellowing of the demarcations of the figures, dull tones and a freeing from geometrical shapes also reflect a mastery which was not as pronounced earlier.
Even while the language of art knows no barriers, he perceives a shift which finds greater expression relying on the regional and the local,conveying a return to the roots for life-giving energies.
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