CHENNAI: Ever pictured Mona Lisa as an Indian woman in Raji Ravi Varma's painting? AP Shreethar celebrates Mona Lisa in myriad forms through his paintings. His latest artistic venture titled The Cadent Coalition is an Indo-Italian crossover art show of mixed media paintings. It will feature the reinvention of Varma’s luxurious women encapsulated by the enigmatic face of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in 32 pieces out of the 72 he had created as a part of the series.
" I've been working for quite some time on a series called Mona Lisa, in my dreams. A remarkable hero in the history of art would be Mona Lisa. All these paintings are made in the original size of 30*20," explains Shreethar who created his first painting of the series in 1997.
The paintings will picture Mona Lisa in different angles with a 360-degree view to give a wholesome perspective. We learn that getting the anatomy right is the challenging part mainly because she is an imaginary character. This painting in specific is tricky because there are lots of interpretations — from hidden codes to stories behind the landscape. "I saw a high resolution image of Mona Lisa only in Wikipedia after so many years. Moore market used to be my library during in 1987. Now with a click of a button, everything is available on the Internet," he shares.
The art that conceals stories/the big picture
It took eight years for Leonardo da Vinci to create the painting with 30 different layers. He tells us that replicating such a work in this time period is not possible because we live in a world where modern artists use a synthetic medium. Leonardo's medium was oil paint and it always remained wet. He has also imagined how Mona Lisa would look under the hands of top painters in the world like Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Rembrandt. "I wanted people to see the Indian version of Mona Lisa. Ravi Varma's painting was of great help in establishing the link or she wouldn't have traveled to India." While Ravi Varma's works are known for the multi-coloured projects, the artist has maintained a sepia palette throughout. This is to give equal importance to both the artists. He believed that having too many colours might take the focus away from the face. "I am also working on a book on Mona Lisa from the perspective of an Indian artist. My dream is to create a Museum of Lisa which will have about 1,000 Mona Lisa under 41 zones or themes that will include kids, Hollywood, Bollywood, sports and Indian zone. By the time you come out of the museum your own portrait of Mona Lisa will be given to you," he shares.
Beyond the canvas
The artist has created several vintage portraits over the years. He has done many works featuring actor Kamal Hasan and one for Rahman's completion of 25 years in music. In all these portraits, the characters would be visualised in the backdrop of different time periods of history. Alongside, he has collected over 7,000 different cameras in a span of 20 years and has preserved them in a museum that he had built in Singapore. That apart, he has created over 300 museums around the world in Singapore, Malaysia and US. With the first 3D museum, first in India, that was launched two years back in the city, his next concept is called the One minute wonder that will give us a one minute view of different places in the world. He also plans to give us a video of our live experience in the museum.
Juggling with many projects down the line, the self-taught artist started his journey in class 8. He has been painting for 18 years. "Why teach art when it is a self-developed skill? Kids these days are doing a tremendous job. They have access to everything in the internet world. Back then, only during exhibitions I had an opportunity to meet other artists and got to see their work," shares the artist who has done 64 shows so far and his next one is in a few days.
Shreethar has also created a silicone statue of Abdul Kalam and he wants to chisel one for Shirdi Sai Baba's centenary year. A year ago his Lost generation series on the dead children of Syria received rave accolades. Given a chance his next series would be on the protest for Cauvery. "Artists abroad are respected very much for their profession. Although people here are skeptical about art as a profession they are willing to explore and its getting reformed again. Imagine, a painting that was done so many years ago is cherished across the world and is now fetching millions of dollars in auction. We can give rebirth to the canvas. Respect the art and you will be respected as an artist," he concludes with a hope.
The exhibition will be on May 2 at The Italian Embassy Culture Centre in New Delhi.
Pull quote: "Artists abroad are respected very much for their profession. Although people here are skeptical about art as a profession they are willing to explore and its getting reformed again. Imagine, a painting that was done so many years ago is still cherished across the world and fetching millions of dollars in auction! We can give rebirth to the canvas. Respect the art and you will be respected as an artist," he concludes with a hope.