Page 15 - Anjolie Ela Menon - Inner Vision
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The use of wooden frames came by quite   throughout her career. This had begun with   The  Times  of  India’s  150th-anniversary  imagery to be the basis of her artworks, Menon has
 accidentally, with her looking to a friend and   training with live models during her brief stint at   celebrations at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai. It   gone beyond her apprehension of working with
 visionary O.P. Jain for help when she had run out   the J.J. School of Art to work with male models   was attended by J.RD. Tata, one of Anjolie’s   technology to create something quite unique. With
 of frames for paintings. The founder of the artist   posed nude in the style of Greek statues at Beaux   important patrons, among others. In the following   the use of computers, collages, and photography,
 village Sanskrit then scoured his backyard to find a   Arts, Paris. With this, she was able to build an   year, she participated in the São Paulo Biennale.   she develops images of her own body of work that
 wooden window, which they nailed onto the   incredibly  strong  base  to  play  off  of  as  she   she then paints over with oils, creating an entirely
 canvas. Unhappy with the initial result, Menon   transformed nudes into her style. Visiting sculptor   Not to be held down by one art style, Menon would   new artwork. Recurring motifs show up repeatedly
 priced the painting at INR 17,000 to discourage   Giselbertus’ Eve was also a turning point for the   transform her works quite radically in the 90s.   in the same works, and images are often laid on
 buyers from purchasing it. But she was surprised   artist in the nudes that she created in the future,   Going  from  sombre-hued  introspective  works  to   top  of  each  other,  sometimes  creating  filters  of
 to hear that it had sold despite that. She then   with her early nudes sharing the innocence   giving a kitschy, new life to objects like chairs and   colours through which one can view the backdrop.
 asked O.P. Jain to find more such window frames   juxtaposed with the sexuality that could be seen in   cupboards with her artwork. From her many   Despite the intervention of machines, these works
 at scrap dealers. Thus, the window frame would   his awe-inspiring sculptures.   foraging trips through Mohammed Ali Road during   still retain the Renaissance-esque feel that Menon
 also become associated with the artist.  her stay in Mumbai and other travels, found   is known for - the Mutations-Pentimento series
 Speaking of her female nudes to The Hindu’s   objects became a long-running fascination for the   from  1996  being  a  fine  example  of  the  same.  A
 The late 70s saw her nudes transform into ones of   BusinessLine  in  2018  she  said,  “I  was  born  of   artist. Further, on a stay in Chennai with gallery   pentimento refers to a work that shows a visible
 women, barely clad, exposing certain parts of their   Bengali-American parentage and my extended   owner Sharan Apparao, Menon started painting an   presence of earlier paintings that have been
 bodies, and seemed to be more assured and more   family has Muslims, Parsis and Druids. I have   old unused chair. This would then lead to the hunt   painted over in singular or multiple layers of paint.
 her  own.  Here one  can also  see her fascination   always stayed true to my multicultural lineage no   for other such objects in junkyards in the city,
 with how clothing drapes, something that we will   matter which political party is in power. My female   ending with 37 such pieces, painted over a year   Talking to The Times of India about the current art
 see throughout her oeuvre.  nudes counter the misogynistic gaze of male   and  finally  exhibited  in  Mumbai.  This  exhibition   world, she said, “Practitioners of art in the present
 painters  like  FN  Souza  —  a  friend  whom  I  often   titled ‘Follies in Fantastikal Furniture’ held at   era are very lucky - never before have so many
 During this time, she would also create several   argued with — and this prevailing wave of hate   Jehangir Art Gallery would be both criticised and   barriers been demolished, leaving artists to draw
 nude  paintings  featuring  blooming  flowers  and   crimes towards women.”  lovingly received, seeing her use pop art style   source material from both the past and the visual
 animals like snakes and goats. This was followed   movie posters as inspiration to paint South Indian   matrix of our own times. Folk, urban and rural
 by a period of painting nudes seated on benches   Menon, with her husband, then moved to Germany   movie stars on furniture. This was a new,   influences,  the  new  digital  technology  and
 surrounded by either cats or crows, an example   with yet another posting, leaving behind their sons   innovative  and  more  cheerful  style  of  work  than   multi-dimensional work all give us a huge canvas
 being ‘Nude with Cat’ from the year 1978. Nudes   in India so they could study further. The loneliness   before. The exhibition would also feature a mound   to explore. Personally, I remain a painter but
 with a single breast exposed, reminiscent of the   of living away from family, combined with the   of colourful, patterned blankets that were used to   endorse and admire all the bold new trends that
 Madonna, would also become a mainstay  in   discovery of a medical essay, led to her creating   protect the chairs during their travel to the city.   are sweeping through India.”
 Menon’s body of work. ‘Madonna of Merriweather’,   the famed ‘open-heart’ series. The works created   These would take a life of their own, becoming an
 executed in 1976, is one such example.  during this time featured  the stark  German   installation in themselves. This innovative shift   In the late 90s, kitsch is another genre of art that
 landscape  in  the  backdrop  with  human  figures   from melancholic works to a more fun take on art   Menon delved into, starting with her found objects
 Her technique too was taking on a life of its own   that bared their hearts, symbolising her need for   is  not  only  flippant  in  ways  but  also  visually   and then creating awe-inspiring paintings. Kitsch
 with her discovering Rembrandt’s works created   human relationships in the country. She would   appealing. Many artists would go on to try to   itself is a heavily argued term, with some
 with thin glazes of oxides in Paris. Another   create  a  large  body  of  work  in  this  series  in  the   repeat the success of this exhibition with their   associating it with the fantastical, while others
 technique she started employing was to use   future, featuring fetuses in the womb, including   individual takes on found object art, appropriating   state that it represents a lack of taste. For the
 various found objects like slippers, tablemats and   ‘Man With Heart Of Gold’, executed in 2005.   Menon’s  works  in  some form  or  another.  But  by   artist, not to be held down by clichés and
 newspapers to ‘print’ onto her works, creating   Another monumental series originated during the   giving these discarded objects a new, more vibrant   convention, this genre seemed to be the perfect
 texture and  detailing. This  was also  a time  she   late  1980s  upon  her  return  to  her  husband’s   life  like  in the  case of  the  nudes  painted  onto  a   outlet and she began exploring it around the
 received even more appreciation from the art   familial home in Kerala. Her new compositions   veena case and the iconic Kamal Hasan and Big B   2000s. First came a series of small collages
 circuit with exhibitions held in Delhi, Mumbai and   featured a subdued palette of browns and blacks   chairs, Menon found a true middle ground   bringing together painted landscapes juxtaposed
 New York.  juxtaposed against bright contrasting details, with   between function and art.   with collages of religious calendar art. This
 the subjects being South Indian. This was                  exhibition in 1998 in Paris would then lead to ‘Gods
 The 80s saw the nude subjects of her works take a   prompted by the discovery of albums and photo   She is known to have said about her experiments   and Others’ in 2000, held at Gallery Admit One in
 turn as they were stripped of the innocence that   negatives of South Indian royal women who,   with the lighter side of art, "Our work is so earnest,   New  York.  The  exhibition featured  large-scale
 the subjects of the earlier years shared. Arising   dressed  in  their  finery,  were  placed  before  fake   so dukhi (sorrowful) and I am called the queen of   paintings inspired by Hindu mythology, circus
 from her visits to Foras Road, a red light area in   Victorian backdrops. This is also when she started   dukhi art. But we should move towards the funky   posters, and Bollywood movie posters. Bringing
 Mumbai, while out scouring for objects to work   creating her Namboodiri priest series, positioning   and the satirical."  her signature aesthetic and motifs to the paintings
 with, she came upon the many sex workers that   them against these same backdrops. Her travels   and combining it with popular art, she created a
 would stand at windows for potential customers.   through Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where she   With this, her experimentation would lead her to   never-before-seen amalgamation. Witnessed in a
 This would result in a series of impactful works.  immersed herself in rich tradition and classical   test out new media works. ‘Mutations’ was an   painting of Kali and Durga holding aloft bandit
 music deeply influenced these works.  exhibition  of some such  works  held  at  Wallace   Veerappan’s severed head, Menon’s exploration of
 Anjolie Menon is now known for the distinctive   Gallery  in  Manhattan.  Most  likely  one  of  the  first   the genre elevated street art, making audiences
 female nudes that have been a focal point for her   Her first retrospective was held in 1988 as part of   major Indian artists to use computer-assisted   question what defines ‘high art’ and ‘low art’. Many

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