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Colours of youth

They have energised the city’s art space with their own brand of visual language. Ashrafi S. Bhagat profiles seven young artists



MAKING A SPLASH (Clockwise from left) Ganesh Selvaraj, Sailesh, Siva, Jacob, Benitha and Krishnaswamy PHOTOS: (COVER & ABOVE) R. RAVINDRAN

Known for music and dance, Chennai did not witness the same development in the art arena. The 1960s and 1970s marked the emergence and establishment of modern art in the city, termed the Madras Art Movement.

Almost three decades later, Chennai boasts of a breed of young, talented, and dynamic group, that has energised the artistic space with its own brand of visual language.

Within a fluid cultural milieu, this group of seven has made a mark for itself by adopting a conceptual approach, experimental technique and mediating with technology.

Meet Benitha Perciyal, Jacob Jabaraj, M. Siva, B.O. Shailesh, C. Krishnaswamy, N. Ramachandran and Ganesh Selvaraj.

Their work marks a departure from the hegemonic influence of regional art forms and embraces a style that reflects its individual identity. Dominating the works is a persuasive self-reflexivity as well as a perspective honed by a varied understanding of custom, ethnicity, philosophy and gender.

For virtual effect
B.O. Sailesh


Too restless to be confined to a particular medium, he communicates through painting, installation, printmaking, videography and now, computer aided three-dimensional sculptures. With the human body as a dominant trope and the locus of emotional registers as fright, excitement, anger, bravery and courage, Sailesh’s visual language is premised on realism, sharply working out his human forms in inexplicable yoga poses. His works are infused with a primeval energy that reflects life. Extending his concepts and medium, Sailesh, in his latest series, has employed the software MAYA, which technically produces a 360 degree model. This 3D print simulates fibre glass appearance. In the post-processing stage, the 3D model is taken out of the machine and cleaned. Then, it is placed in the oven for two hours, at 70 degrees centigrade. Finally, the model is dipped in a cyano acrylite solution that imparts strength and makes the colours vibrant.

Utopian world
M. Siva


His creative restlessness has led him to search for an identity in the world of bricolage through his transgressive colours. In his latest series, “Ambari” or celebrations, he has carried forth his concepts through the medium of installation. Siva recreates his Utopian world within a surrealistic ambience. For him, images such as an elephant with a chair placed on top or a jar of ambrosia with a human form slipping into it to drink are symbols of power and the pleasure. Thought provoking and provocative, his work reflects a duality — power or agency of self, reality or abstraction — that is salient in his installations and paintings. Painting on his own terms, the canvas becomes a space to exercise unhibited pleasure.

Powerful metaphors
Benitha Perciyal


Niece of senior artist A. P. Santhanaraj, her experiences and exposure have allowed her to explore issues of gender and make the connection between images and power. Her technique is mediated through water colours, which she patiently and painstakingly builds up until a desired tone is reached. As a result, her works are characterised by a delicacy of style, evoking poetry with subtlety of tones. Marked by an avowal of gestural methods such as grinding mehendi or brick, her canvasses appear as metaphors of ‘labour’ and domesticity. Benitha moves between mediums with ease to create sculptures as wall installations.

The body as brush
C. Krishnaswamy


Various asanas are performed on colour-smeared canvasses. In the modern narrative, where premium is placed on innovative techniques, this method of painting is a curious reworking of the technical genre, mediated through an eastern philosophy of yogic practices. He performs asanas on a large canvas (6’x5’) spread on the ground and smears it with linseed oil and various colours through controlled and coordinated movements. By this process of engaging his body as a tool for creation, the artist leaves his imprint, resulting in varied abstract forms and images that range from the mystical and esoteric to downright ghostly and organic.

Body language
N. Ramachandran



Brings to his oeuvre ‘a feeling of living through... a process of continuation through life’, in his transcription of the sights and sounds around him as well as through his intense experiences. He interpolates his own ‘body’ into his works and also mines the philosophical tradition to shape his creative statements. Why the body? In post-modern discourse, the body has aggressively become visible within art practice — a site of manipulation, projection, identification and display. His extensive use of the body in fragments may appear traditional, but are assemblages dividing it to interface his experiences. These reflections in his art works are made to appear as traditional paintings but are not; rather are made as assemblages divided into mathematically precise squares, with each containing an object. In his latest series, he has moved on to interrogate photographic images playing upon the binaries of self and shadow.

All in a square
Ganesh Selvaraj


Uses his visual language to make each work an exclusive body of ideas: “Every time I create a new body of works it has to be different”. His works are created at the juncture of life’s confrontational experiences, a difference that Ganesh explores through various media and materials. In his latest series, broadly titled “Puzzles”, Ganesh explores the intricacies of internal structures through the formal element of the square shape. With meticulous precision, working on kaleidoscopic coloured boards, he has cut the squares and opened out some to create three-dimensional planar art forms. His works move beyond traditional frames and can be read as installations on the walls or planar sculptures, since he offers only two-dimensional perspectives. He extends this concept of the puzzle in his black and white sketches on canvas too.

Abstract idiom
Jacob Jebraj


Has a sensibility marked by decorative impulses inherent of the Madras Movement, which he transcends through aggressive experimentation. Fluidly moving between different mediums, he indexes his approach as post-modern, melding mass, popular and visual culture. From his earlier series Dragonflies, to Forms and Space to the Fine Prints, Jacob has emerged with abstraction as a visual language.

The forms, imagery, texture, imprints of body parts and delicate traceries of his brushstrokes in the works evoke the sights and sounds of the mileu he lives in, be it graffiti, advertising hoardings, imagery emanating from electronic media or music.

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