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Feminine perspectives

Two women artists showcase their works, capturing two radically different worlds



TWO ARTISTS Two worlds

The two exhibitions at Apparao Galleries are works in contrast, represented by Kanchan Chander and Melisa Enderle. The former is Delhi-based, and the latter is from Chennai. Interestingly, the worlds they have chosen to define are radically different.

While Kanchan articulates her ideas through fragmented human forms — torsos, half bodies, headless ones etc. in ‘Migrating Memories', Melisa's water colours and colour pencil sketches reflect a lived reality of ordinary people going about their daily chores, in ‘Me and My Neighbours'.

Realistic themes

Melisa's themes are not only realistic, but rooted in people whom she interacts with or has encountered in daily life. The medium is either water colours, pastels or colour pencils. A return to the real within the contemporary art milieu does not negate her working methodology in this mode as traditional or historical, and hence unsuitable for the present.

What needs to be admired is her intimate engagement with the human body per se imparting a quality of endearing warmth and domesticity, reminiscent of 17 {+t} {+h} Century Little Dutch Masters. The simplicity of her subject is almost spiritual. They are rendered in water colours with verisimilitude, though there is a hint of romanticising them. Melisa, in her subject, is drawn to old people as their visages offer her an opportunity to delineate the wrinkles and furrows of age. Yet, these portraits are not clinically rendered, rather she has infused them with insightful characterisation of their wisdom of experiences in life, as it shines forth from their eyes, which conveys pathos, sentiments, bewilderment and other emotions articulated with studied precision and warm understanding.


Her technique is labour-intensive, as she diligently layers her works, especially in water colours to obtain that melting translucency. A close scrutiny reveals layers and layers of tonal subtleties that also give depths to her shadows and soft luminosity to her light. Melisa's works are purely enchanting in the representation of the material world as the jali balcony with the intricacy of fretted stone, the somber grey textures of the temple walls, the kaleidoscopic colours in the embroidered quilt or the rangoli on the floor.

Nostalgic trip

Kanchan's works are premised on nostalgia and memory, incorporating the element of time and space. Yet, moving beyond that, her works bear a strong affinity to design and fashion, since she has engaged with zari embroidery, beads, Swarovski crystals and others, intimately associated with the fashion and design world.

The female body, in its fragment as torso or headless form, is a generic translation, and does not index class or caste. By enveloping it in the aura of classical history, she freely plays with the forms, placing them against textile-designed motif background or creating the floral design within the form itself.

The laborious process in these works is cathartic, providing an opportunity to be meditative, as she translates her creativity and images materially. Her reference to the feminine world is also reflected in the use of foils of tablets, gesturing to their medical health. At first glance, her works defeat her aim, as they appear over decorative, but a close scrutiny reveals her articulation through memory, bringing alive those past moments.

And, it is not surprising to find the ubiquitous Indian art motifs as elephants, bulls, geometric and floral designs playing their decorative role, yet held in tension through compositional arrangement. The works appear iconic as they are dominated by single figures with textured muted decorative backgrounds.

Happy optimism

Kanchan's works exude happy optimism like her persona does, and the viewer is magically drawn to her composition by the vibrancy of colours, tactile textures and endearing motifs of elephants and other animals judiciously serving as footnotes.

The exhibitions are on at Apparao Galleries until November 28.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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