CHENNAI: The lighthouse on the Marina Beach stands mighty against the backdrop of puff-blue sky and fluffy clouds; an astrologer in a chequered cotton sari, sporting a big, bright bindi and orange flowers, sits with her fortune stick; a man walks pushing his TVS-50 filled with garlands, idols, and evil-eye warding objects. This and many such framed digital illustrations add life to the walls at the newly launched experiential arts space, Vennba Studio on GN Chetty Road. In an era when physical distancing and virtual galleries have become the norm, Vennba’s owner Siddharth Chandrasekhar intends to keep the gallery-viewing experience intact with all the safety measures in place.
“Art plays an important role in interior design. We have given equal importance to abstract pieces as well as illustrations and doodles. We will appreciate more artworks that capture the essence of everyday lives. That’s how we plan to stand apart from other art galleries in the city,” explains Siddharth, who is also an interior designer, filmmaker and entrepreneur. The studio, created by his design firm Pencil and Monk, held its first event Madras Nalla Madras on August 24.
The exhibition featured the limited edition digital prints by citybased artists Sunil Raghavendher and Varshini Ramakrishnan. The exhibition will be on till the end of this month. Sunil’s Windows of Madras, a digital art series on Instagram, explores the city’s history and myriad communities through design elements used in buildings. The series that began in early April and ended in May has paintings of windows from 30 different localities of the city. In June, he started his next series on the Icons of Namma Chennai and completed it in August with 14 digital illustrations.
Varshini’s People of Madras, also an Instagram series, attempts to document the prints, patterns and people on the city’s streets. As part of the 36 days of type challenge, the artist created her series featuring the people of Chennai. It began in April and ended in May. She continues to draw for a few charity projects. “Sunil is an architect and Varshini is a fashion designer. Isn’t it amazing to find two people having two different perceptions about one city? The duo supported us in our debut event just like how namma Madras supports and accepts anyone who comes here in search of a livelihood. With the help of a friend, I even plan on bringing out 3D versions of the doors designed by Sunil,” says Siddharth.
The plan is to collaborate with aspiring and established artists from across the country and put the spotlight on lesser-known artists and artisan clusters. “On a trip abroad, you tend to have a lot of options for souvenirs. But this isn’t the case in India. You have very limited choices and these are expensive. How long will you keep gifting Buddha or Taj Mahal? Why is it that we don’t have something that represents the local flavours of every city? I was amused by the artworks of some of the hidden talents on Instagram that are bringing the spirit of the city through miniatures, sculptures, paintings, and all kinds of artworks. People need to see this.
They are redefining the approach of consuming and looking at art,” he says. The studio will be a space for artists to sell their work. “We have an e-gallery on the website for people to browse through other works of similar artists that we have currently in stock. Artists are not travelling in the current pandemic scenario but we do hope to have interesting collaborations with them once things settle down,” he assures. Virtual tours will happen depending on the availability of the artist. “The studio was supposed to be launched before the lockdown. Nevertheless, we decided to do it after the relaxation.
It feels nice to see people coming out in search of diversions. We may have virtual tours but nothing matches up to a personal and intimate experience. We have murals, art collectibles, and framed artworks for people to buy. Art must be celebrated without boundaries and restrictions. We hope to fund more new talents,” he comments. Visits are by appointment only and restricted to small groups The gallery is open from 10.30 am to 6.30 pm every day