Activism on canvases

Curve Dalit Art and Aesthetics Exhibition under Vaanam Art Festival features artworks with the theme of social justice by thirty artists from the country
Artist Chandrasekaran Guruswamy's artworks
Artist Chandrasekaran Guruswamy's artworks

CHENNAI: For artist Chandrasekaran Guruswamy, fondly called as ‘Chandru Master’ by his students, art doesn’t have complicated definitions. “Art is not very complex, it is something that makes everybody happy,” shares the artist at the ceremony while speaking at Lalit Kala Akademi as a part of Curve Dalit Art and Aesthetics Exhibition. For more than half a century, he has dedicated his life towards arts and activism.

Paying reverence to him and other 29 artists, the exhibition presented more than 100 artworks, all with the theme of social justice. Chandrasekaran says, “The 4,500-year-old sphynx stands as the proof of the imagination, religion, language, law and government, whereas the development of science and technology, trade, globalisation are standing as the evidence of deformation and depletion of nature. My life is a process to understand why recognitions, awards and accolades are showered for the fake art and artists who don’t voice against the odds mentioned above. This is the revelation of my artwork.”

Celebrating the artists

Neelam Cultural Centre has been organising Vaanam Art Festival for three years. Every year, the team under the leadership of director Pa Ranjith hopes to unify artistes from different sections and celebrate their works. Natarajan Gangadharan, curator of the exhibition says, “Art should challenge authority. In language, gender, caste, etc., there is authority and we should create and celebrate art that conveys humanity.”

Works of artist Chandru in the 80s and 90s along with works of Ajay Kumar, Amirthalingam A, Anitha, Anthoni Guruz D, Aravind Chedayan, Bheema Sugan, Jigesh, Johnson G, Kumar, Madhavan Krishnamoorthy, Maria Anthony Raj, Nataraj K, Naveen Daniel, Prabakaran Saminathan, Prithivi Raj Rajendran, Purushothaman T, Puviyarasu Kannadasan, Ramkumar Kannadasan, Saranraj V, Saravanan K, Saravanan P, Sivaranjani, Solai Sridhar K, Sridhar Lo, Sundar, V Selvakumar, Vasudevan, Venkatesan S, Vipin Dhanurdharan, were exhibited.

Chief guest Kanimozhi Karunanidhi shares, “In one of Johnson’s paintings, there is a picture of Dr BR Ambedkar, with one layer of saffron on the outside. That picture got me into thinking. Ambedkar’s space and the place for our thoughts are shrinking and while others are engulfing us in this age. At this time, love is the only thing that can save us. In this age, when people holding high offices are often sharing hate speeches, artist Chandru stands apart by conveying the message of love through his works. He preserves the essence of living in his works. Even though I have been to Lalit Kala Akademi so many times, I haven’t seen it crowded with these many people. I can surely tell that this is indicating a new change that Neelam Cultural Centre has brought out.” She added that everybody’s works and stories should have a place and respect.

Emphasising that it is important to celebrate artists like Chandru, Pa Ranjith dedicated his understanding of cinema to Chandru. He shares, “When I had joined the College of Arts, the one teacher I was afraid of was Chandru sir. If I wanted to go and meet him, I had to do artwork. In college, more than painting, I did a lot of drama and cinema. One time, I went up to him and showed my poem. He asked me what I do with my art, and who will benefit from it.

For me, he is my teacher in cinema. He is the reason that I understand the medium and my language. I have learnt a lot from his teachings and speeches. I am talking about Dalit life so strongly in my films because of Chandru sir.” Ranjith also mentioned that the artiste talks a lot about landscapes, the people in it, every little nuance and how everything has an identity and a story behind it. He concluded, “Chandru sir taught why an artiste should know the story behind every little detail. I learnt that art is something that is done very consciously. I have been trying to convey art through my characters, story and cinema.”

The exhibition will be on till April 30 at Lalit Kala Akademi from 10 am to 7 pm.

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