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By VISUAL ARTS: Somak Ghoshal
  • Published 3.09.11

Most of the paintings and pen-and-ink drawings by S.G. Vasudev, on display at Galerie 88 till September 10, bear the title, Rhapsody. And indeed, there is something really rhapsodic about the way Vasudev plays around with colours and textures, be it on canvas or on paper. If on the former he seems to unleash some sort of a poetic fury, he turns the latter into a site of lyrical elegance.

Vasudev’s application of thick layers of paint, or impasto, suggests a sensuous engagement with the creative process, but there is more to it than that. Out of the clotted paint, Vasudev carves out patterns and faces, ethereal yet bristling with suppressed energy. The gouging, scraping, hollowing out and smoothening of paint add to the violence that lurks in the hidden depths of the canvas. In the best works, such as the one that depicts a corpse being nibbled at by birds, the aura of menace thickens with the density of the paint. The one irritant in this arresting body of oils is the golden tint that Vasudev uses insistently. This shimmering colour does not agree with the brooding interiority of his work. On the contrary, its recurrence diffuses the tension that the darker colours build up so expertly and, more often than not, the solemn, melancholic air on the spectral faces gets trivialized. Further, the enormous scale of some of the works also takes away from their visual clarity and coherence. In this respect, their contrast with the smaller, more compact and successful pen-and-ink sketches is quite apparent.

Indeed, Vasudev adequately makes up for the inadvertent lapse — if it can be called that — in the oils with his suite of pen-and-ink sketches. These drawings — white lines on black paper or black lines on white surfaces — are rendered exquisitely and with remarkable precision. Drawing on folk traditions and modernist trends, these works create their individual idiom of an indigenous Surrealism. The natural world, with its flora and fauna finely etched out on paper, dissolves into mental landscapes. In these works, Vasudev’s manipulation of the line is at once firm and fragile. A world apart from the welter of emotions that is conjured up by the churning of paint, the interplay of points and lines seduces the viewer with its combination of sharpness and serenity.