Art and the senses
K. Lal with one of his paintings Photo: Sooraj Rajmohan | The Hindu

A relic is not merely a physical remnant of a bygone past, it can be a symbolic icon seen throughout history, as relevant today as it was centuries ago. This is the outlook of K. Lal, artist and lecturer in painting at the Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts at Mavelikara, who is in the city for an exhibition of his works at the art gallery on the Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan premises. Entitled ‘Relics’, the exhibition is on till November 25.

A passionate lover of art and its history, Lal has no difficulty explaining the thoughts behind the numerous paintings that adorn the stark white gallery walls, most of them dominated by images of human digits twisted and manipulated into various forms, at times issuing imperious commands, while taking on meta physical forms in others.

“I have been teaching for a while now and my research on art through the years has given me a perspective on various styles. Personally, I consider painting to be all about image making, and the idea that stimulates me the most is the concept of the five senses. Instead of portraying these using entire human figures, however, I prefer using only certain parts of the body, like the hands or the eyes, to represent the being. Even throughout history, we see examples of the parts playing a larger role than the whole,” says Lal.

Fleshing out his theory on the relevance of artistic relics today, Lal compares the fate of Ekalavya, an archer more talented than Arjuna himself who is robbed of his skill by Dronacharya, with the fate of many a youngster today. “It is a little disheartening sometimes when we hear stories about talented people being relegated to the sidelines for whatever reason. Such individuals, especially young children, should be allowed free reign over what they do with the abilities they possess, rather than be moulded into what their parents or teachers believe they should become. This was the thinking that drove me to paint these,” he says, gesturing towards a series of paintings of a larger- than-life hand with a winding mechanism instructing a pint-sized boy to perform difficult yoga postures.

“However, it is not fair that I always take a pessimistic approach,” he adds as he displays the image of a young girl standing on the top of a podium looking to the heavens, an illustration of a dream realised. He is obviously a person who loves what he does, a fact that is proven when he admits that each painting on display is only one of multiple variations he creates of the same work. Just something to fill his hours while his more complex oil paintings dry, he says. And when he is not busy painting, he imparts his knowledge to his students, an audience he believes has done him much good.

“It is always refreshing to be able to pass on what you learn to the next generation, and occasionally pick up new things as well. Dealing with my pupils keeps me on my feet and charges to create new things, and inspires me to be the person who lets them use their talents to the fullest.”

There is a sense of insignificance one may experience when gazing at the works of Lal. They clearly transcend everyday thinking, weaving together concepts and beliefs on canvas. It is fitting that such works have found their place in a secluded gallery, surrounded by dance and music and minds that appreciate it, for there can be no doubt that they are the creations of one who truly appreciates the art of painting, thus giving a new meaning to the word ‘relic’.

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