- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur
N Karunakaran is the pride of Kerala. The artist has carved a niche in
the art world for himself with his versatile oeuvre. Talent, genuine passion
for his craft and a timeless wisdom emanate from his compositions. For
the last four decades he is known as the weaver of womanscapes. His palate
has been a cornucopia for inexhaustible mysteries of the female.
CN 2008, a
month-long exhibition of paintings by C N Karunakaran at Ishka Gallery,
Kochi, showcased 41 paintings. You are introduced to the best of his collection
commemorating 40 years of painting, of painting HER, poetic, surreal, and
ethereal. They glowed in the diffused spread of faint sunshine. You amble
along wondering about womanhood. The collection is a strange draw of womanhood
in a mood of celebration, womanhood embedded in bounties of voluptuousness.
Born of the
psycho-sexual realm of an artist's imagination these women float languorously
in primordial pleasure in the twilight land of desire and reality. Each
picture tells the tale of a maverick genius who created them. They are
the figments of his imagination with the quality of the surreal hovering
around them evoking mystery. More than their sensuality, it is their power
that haunts you. Juxtaposition of the incongruous, real, and fantastic
creates a phantasmagoria, more powerful than pleasurable, yet quite lyrical
is obsessed with a pattern; all figures are type-set. Yet they are multiple
articulation of the female principle.
"C N's pattern
is a variation of the same permutation combination for which there are
infinite possibilities," says Vijyakumar Menon, an art critic.
He is one
of the best colourists in India. Marvellous coloration marks him apart.
Warm colours like red and yellow are made warmer. Green and blue have soothing
effect. The riot of colours is another marked feature of his created world.
Tertiary and quaternary colours light up not just the canvass but your
mood as well. It adds to the aesthetic pleasure that wells up within the
to the core
Born in Kerala,
CN is an original home-grown artist, in thought and expression. He has
evolved an idiom of his own: syntax both personal and collective; semantics,
both traditional and modern. Indian to the core, rooted in mural traditions,
his paintings are deep internalisation of Indian iconography. The unique
posturing of his protagonists and their classical stance impart a dreamy
quality. The stylized figures, plant motif for decoration have sprung form
Kerala murals. The wavy flow of foliage gives touches of an undulating
rhythm to his compositions. The linear quality is another Indian feature
that we find in his art. The presence of birds and animals, natural and
mythical endow an ethereal quality. And the background offsets the foreground.
Narrative mode is another distinct feature: they tell their story and you
read your story.
You walk into
her world. One canvas is simply, SHE. SHE is painted in many colours as
if the artist is yet to be satisfied viewing her in perfection. The entire
gallery gives a kaleidoscopic view of HER bathed in warm hues.
SHE is drawn
in her many moods. You see her alone, and lonely. Another tells of her
strange thoughts or maybe the thoughts of her creator, or perhaps that
of you, the viewer. Yes, she is a dreamer, a seeker of love perhaps. She
is cheerful in the company of man. She is a contented woman in COUPLE,
beside her man. Another tells of her pangs in separation. She is happy
bonding with other women. Her world is that of plants, animals and humans.
She stands in front of her house; goes to the temple; meets her friend
under a tree. She believes in man-woman relationship on the basis of equality,
as a harmonious unified whole. Her inner core is a combination of the yin
and the yang reminding of creation myth, ardhanariswara etc. She is a powerful
matriarch in her kingdom.
Here life is illumined;
here love radiates from its many phases. Here is erotica; here is the life
force; here, is the creative force, for the artist. Man seeks the female
within; the artist the creative force within him. CN's paintings are the
romantic expression of an artist who is a romantic in his approach to art.
It is a world
unknown and unseen. "I have tried to give a different dimension. I have
made the flora and fauna more descriptive and have tried to bring in an
element of the abstract," says CN. Some of the fauna - the deer, the big
cats, the goats, and birds – are part animal and part human. Occasionally
there is a lion with a bearded head. And the similarity with the artist
is arresting. This is his timeless signature. And the mystery lurks in
these combinations, in the complex nucleus of the artist’s mindscape.
all over the world have displayed CN's solo exhibitions. He has won many
national awards. He started Chitrakoodam, the first private art gallery
in Kerala. He lives in Kochi as a stimulus to the pictorial world.
Jayaraj is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com