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ART

Signposts in an artistic journey

KALA KRISHNAN RAMESH

Sinha's writing maintains a sensitive balance of technical and human-interest angles...


The Art of Adimoolam, Gayatri Sinha, Mapin Publishing, 2005, p.104, price not stated.

FROM early black-and-white drawings — of which the Gandhi series remains the most well known — to later explorations and interpretations in colour, Adimoolam's work, in addition to being inherently attractive, is also intriguing for its unusual deviations off regular artways.

Mapin Publishing's The Art of Adimoolam is a show-and-tell of this journey and largely succeeds in giving readers/ viewers an idea of the geography of Adimoolam's routing in art and art's forms and locations.

The text is divided into word and image sections; both are arranged by Gayatri Sinha whose sufficiently long and informative introduction takes a tour of Adimoolam's life, tracing his artistic journey alongside others' journeys while bringing out its individualistic nuances.

Sinha's writing maintains a sensitive balance of technical and human-interest angles throughout so that even the very general reader need not feel at a loss. The written text gives the reader an easy understanding of the atmosphere and dominant streams of influence at the Madras College, a neat, easy-to-understand version of the whole K.C.S. Paniker-Madras School-Indian modernism issue as well as Adimoolam's complex relationship with the accepted conventions of an aesthetic of line current at the time.

Familiar images

The image text begins with the drawings of the early 1980s, with the famed Gandhi portrait, and continues into other familiar images from Adimoolam's oeuvre. . But this means that we miss out on seeing any of the early sketches that the introduction identifies as an important aspect of Adimoolam's "agonizing quest ... to create a language that was his own." It also means that we miss seeing the drawings of the 1970s, during which period, we are told, there was a change in Adimoolam's style, crucial to an understanding of his "engagement with abstract painting, and his slow and deliberate gestation within that medium."

The arrangement of image and word text is a little disappointing, because often the text, as in the case of this remark, "The influences one finds in Adimoolam's work, in their impact, are liberating and not restrictive", appears too cryptic and one wishes for a little more information.

This isn't always so. For example, the line of written text that precedes the painting section is very apt: "My paintings are abstract drawings, I draw colour." One gets an immediate sense of what Adimoolam means as soon as one sees the very first painting.

Riot of colours

This section is a riot of colours, from pale off-whites to brilliant sea-greens and scarlets and one reads so many things into the text: seasons, the changing moods of earth, the vastness of space, the relationship of image to space, the human urge to feel and sense space, all that and more!

But what does one do with the element of monotony that creeps in here as page after page of abstract images go past? Could this not have been corrected by interposing bits of word text between images? Or in incorporating some sort of chronology to the narrative as a whole, showing the organic connections between the work of different periods/styles, between drawing and painting, rather then divide them into two (seemingly) distinct sections? Having said that, one is happy to add that the introduction is thorough and reader-friendly. When read and viewed together, it creates a sense of annotation, the images and words become fuller, adding both to sense and pleasure. And perhaps one is just being lazy in wishing to have the editors do this rather than doing it oneself. And perhaps that's how the book is meant to be "read" anyway.

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Literary Review

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