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TV Santhosh explores themes of terrorism, war and injustice
A new series of paintings and sculpture by acclaimed artist TV Santhosh explores themes of terrorism, war and injustice. The talented artist’s new body of work draws attention to the exaggerated influence the media has on our perceptions of reality. He peeps into the perplexing phenomenon, finding out how the media reshapes public opinion. According to him, our understanding of current global and political issues is invariably influenced by the media.

TV Santhosh tries to project the truth, hidden somewhere in the barrage of images in media to present alternative narratives. He elaborates: “It’s not easy to distinguish between factual representation and distortion of facts. What is projected may not be the whole truth. And it can be subjective. As an artist, I strive to formulate a language capable of capturing notions of reality.” He describes his artistic approach as philosophical one than political.

Having first trained as a sculptor, TV Santhosh terms himself a ‘painterly minded sculptor’. He creates art that has the clarity and composition of a film still. There is a strong aesthetic element in them. Vibrantly colored in luminous yellows, purples and greens, his paintings invariably grab our attention. He is a slow worker, pondering and laboring over a work of art for months. The slick, single-layered and watercolored effect his subjects demand is time consuming.

One of India's most successful young artists, TV Santhosh has witnessed a meteoric rise to fame in the last couple of years carving out a niche within the contemporary Indian art scene. His sculptures and paintings draw a good response at auctions in India and internationally. His sociopolitical or philosophical leanings were shaped in the early 1980s owing to an activist group, Pratikarana Sangam, in Trichur, Kerala. The artist studied sculpture at Santiniketan, and then did his M.F.A. at Baroda’s Maharaja Sayajirao University.

Since his debut solo in 1997, TV Santhosh’s work has been widely exhibited in India and internationally, in London, NY and Lisbon. His works also feature in the collections of renowned patrons like Charles Saatchi and Frank Cohen. Building on the success of his earlier show in 2005, the new exhibition at Grosvenor Vadehra is an important milestone in the artist’s impressive rise to fame during the last few years. In the exhibition, coinciding with the ambitious exhibition ‘Indian Highway’ at London’s Serpentine Gallery, the artist continues to employ media related images and photographs.

Elaborating on the thought behind the work, a release mentioned: “In his paintings, the artist reminds us of the ‘tinted glasses’ through which the public tends to see topical events unfold by appropriating a continuous flow of images from magazines, newspapers and news channels. His subjects, including protestors, soldiers, scientists and rat catchers, are made to look like negatives.

“This is keeping in the tradition of Man Ray’s ‘Rayograms,’ wherein the viewer looks at the image almost as if through an x-ray machine or a thermo-graphic camera. In this way, the artist is able to create a distance between the work itself and the actual event, disguising the parochial, and allowing local concerns to acquire a universal connotation or significance and thus wider response.” His imagery, as mentioned above, is largely sourced from the media: photo images of captured terrorists, the spectacle of blasts and war, security personnel with sniffer dogs on leash.

Lauding the artist’s latest works and their intent, Colin Gleadell of London Telegraph, mentions in an essay: “Paintings by TV Santhosh were made in response to last November's terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Drawing on details from the newspaper and TV images that shocked and shook the world, the artist has painted the images in such a way that they seem like photographic negatives imbued with garish neon green, red and yellow colors.”

In one, a sniffer dog is at work outside the Taj Hotel where a car has just exploded; in another, security guards are pouring out of a truck as the bombs are going off; and in a third, a woman sifts through the rubble carrying a piece of paper with a child's photo on it.

After the terror attacks, the context of my works has become even more relevant, TV Santhosh thinks. He explains in an interview, “My recent work is only a continuation of what I have been doing; it is nothing drastically different.”