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The Art of Painting on a Lotus Leaf

C Dhinakaran Sundar lets his imagination run wild not just with his brush, but also with his unique choice of canvas

Published: 16th December 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th December 2014 06:00 AM   |  A+A-

Dhinakaran-Sundar

CHENNAI: Artist C Dhinakaran Sundar might have never thought that his series of paintings would fetch him a place so immaculate in the art world. He might have never perceived that an innovative attempt of his would still reign high among other works from his entire career. He talks about how the idea came to him, culminating in a creative end product. For those who had seen his paintings, it would have been a moment of surprise, as it would strike you that the paintings made on lotus leaves look almost like paper.

For Dhinakaran, it all started at the College of Fine Arts, when he joined in the year 1991. As an ardent follower of paintings and art, he developed immense zeal in printmaking and etching. Going to various exhibitions made him ponder about what made the artists follow different styles and techniques, only to end up with the realisation that much has to be done in the field of art for him to stand apart from other artists in terms of innovation.

He says, “My life revolved around the teachings of artists and professors such as Santhana Raja, Anthony Das, Devi Prasad Rai Choudhury and  L Munuswamy. As time progressed, I realised that they all  have dedicated their lives toward one particular art form.”

Dhinakaran goes on, “I felt that I should also create my own style. People should know that I did something new. However, whatever I tried to do at that time was already recorded in the pages of history.”

His life took a U-turn when he was awarded the Bharat Bhavan International Award held at the biennale at Bhopal, for a work on palm leaves. His urge to do something new landed him in intensified research in all the libraries in the city.

Wanting to do paintings on lotus leaves, he worked with the students of biochemistry to find out what can be done so as to minimise the leaf of its waxy quality. He says, “My efforts triumphed when I found that mixing small proportions of alcohol and nitric acid to the leaves for a minimum of 10 days and making it wet for another three days will transform it into a paper-like form. This will help to keep the quality of the leaf, sustaining the colours there by resisting fungal attacks. ” He says that he further added natural colours such as rangoli colours to it.

He conducted his first exhibition paintings in the year 1997, with his works on lotus leaves, along with some of the printing works. In the year 2000, an exhibition exclusively on lotus leaves with 10 works was showcased with the then Japan Consul General as the chief guest, who was also taken aback by the novelty of it all.

As fate would have it, he was sent to Japan with the recommendation of the Japan Consul General for the Japanese Bunkacho Fellowship. Deeply enchanted by the similarity in both cultures, he decided to learn the traditional  Japanese Sumi paintings and wood block print making.

Today, Dhinakaran is the proud owner of his art work with copyrights to his credit. Since then, there was no looking back for him. He has been part of various international biennales, became a jury member of biennales and even a recipient of  Japan International Awards. He says, “My family, my professor Alphonso Aruldas and art critic Lakshmi Venkatraman will always be my support and my inspiration.” He says that he has plans to bring figurative forms to the lotus paintings.

Being able to meet renowned American artist Frank Stella and getting his appreciation from him for the lotus paintings still remains to be one of the memorable moments for him.

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