Could forms of gods and goddesses be customised according to one’s vision? According to veteran artist Senathipathi, whose paintings are inspired by mythology, it’s possible. He tells us, “If one sees the Krishna or Ganesha that I drew, they can immediately identify that it is by me. It is my unique style. The Krishna I draw is my Krishna, the Ganesha I draw is my Ganesha,” says the septuagenarian.
His latest paintings, done between the years 2005 and 2014, are on display at Forum Art Gallery in Adyar. Talking about the paintings that include gods and goddesses represented in a contemporary form, he says, “My paintings might be based on a mythological theme, but I am not a mythology artist. I might use themes of Ganesha, Krishna, Rama or episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, but what I try to depict are human emotions — love, freedom, friendship, mother-child relationships, and so on.” For example, while one might associate Draupadi with the significant character in Mahabharatha, on Senathipathi’s canvas, she epitomises the insecurity in human interaction, according to the artist.
Senathipathi says that ever since he was a child, he had an eye for observing the various rituals that took place in his village. “Back in those days, all the festivities like Krishna Jayanthi and Vinayaka Chathurthi would be celebrated in a grand manner in our homes. Along with my friends, I would observe the festivities,” he recalls. “And later, I used to try and draw what I saw, on the compound walls using kari thundu (charcoal),” he takes us back in time for a minute. He remembers the stories that he heard during his childhood, pictures the event in his mind, and presents his paintings. “This helps me retain the originality,” he says.
Though he is nearing 80, even today, like a divine ritual, he spends a large portion of his time sketching in his studio. “After taking a bath, I come downstairs and head straight to my studio, where I sketch, paint or simply think,” he says. “I follow a unique process of first spreading water on handmade paper, sketching on it using pen-in-ink and then colouring,” he let’s on. Senathipathi, who was once a sculptor too, says he stopped in 2000 due to health reasons. “Even paintings, I am not able to do it fast as before. That period is over,” he says with a sigh. He might have slowed down a bit, but that does not stop the artist from touring the world for his shows. He recently visited London and US for his show, and will soon be heading to Bengaluru, for another soon.
The exhibition, ‘Modernist Paradigms, Nativist Leanings’ is on at Forum Art Gallery till May 30.