BENGALURU: Tulsi mandapams, makeshift clotheslines, census markings and ward numbers... All of these details which evoke a sense of the bygone South Indian way of life are brought to life by artist K R Santhana Krishnan. Having come to be known as ‘Door Santhana’, the artist started specialising in these paintings as a college student out of sheer fascination. He is now displaying his works at an art exhibition titled Small is Beautiful, being held by Bengaluru-based Kynkyny.com. “The concept of painting doors is to give the next generation what is disappearing from today’s world, as well as to bring back memories for many,” he says.
Having moved to Kumbakonam from Chennai in 2015, Krishnan has spent hours in his town where he studied, walking through the bylanes to closely observe the doors. “As a college student, I would pass agraharams in Kumbakonam every day on my way to college and each house had a unique door. At the time, most houses had a casual open-door policy and you could look right in. I would ponder on the different worlds that existed behind each door,” recalls Krishnan, who is in his 40s.
While he sometimes takes photographs of them, at other times, he mostly depends on memory. “These doors are keepers of historic traditions, customs and collective memories. In a way, it is also a vivid description of the everyday lives of people,” he says. Despite having worked on this theme for several years, Krishnan sticks to it, reinventing himself with each of his works.
“People suggested I make the paintings more colourful, so I have started doing that. In addition, I am experimenting with different material, including bauxite,” he says. His works include both paintings of doors as well as life-size structures.
As an artist, Krishnan points out that he spends most of his time indoors in the world of creation and imagination. “So, in a way I am used to this lockdown, although as an artist I was used to travelling extensively for shows, which I miss,” he says, adding that he has been busy participating in online shows, and working on customised orders which have increased during this period. “But I do understand that it’s a period of struggle for establishing artists,” he says. Having lost his wife a few years ago, Krishnan has found solace and strength in art, which has helped him on his road to recovery.