Page 18 - Anjolie Ela Menon - Inner Vision
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reference to the mother-child relationship that    rarely ever any distinction between the foreground                     accidents' could open new vistas and that one       husband’s many postings, she witnessed other
         Menon holds so dear.                               and background. Objects like crows perched on                          was fortunate enough to be painting in an age       migrants too, who would later become subjects for
                                                            fences are introduced into these landscapes to                         where artists had already been liberated in terms   her. From the homeless to beggars to pilgrims, all
         Menon has also experimented with fine jewellery     create a sense of perspective. Other objects are                       of methods and materials. Anything was now grist    have been part of many of her paintings. The
         making with beaded necklaces studded with          seen scattered around these scenes, painted in                         for the mill of creativity.”                        Kumbh Mela, one of the largest pilgrimages
         various gemstones, like citrine, diamonds and      bright colours, and yet they lend a desolate feel.                                                                         undertaken in the world where crores of devotees
         rubies, and pendants that encase miniature         The sky too would take the colours of her                              Her repetition of motifs has grown from being       gather to take a holy bath, resulted in paintings like
         paintings. Some of her muses have been her         imagination rather than a realistic blue, often seen                   subjective to symbolic over time. Earlier, she was   ‘Visarjan’.
         children and grandchildren, portraits of whom      in a vibrant gold or sepia tone instead.                               heavily against being associated with symbolism,
         have featured in pendants that she then later                                                                             adamant that objects used for decoration were       In her own journeys to Kerala, she found
         gifted  them.  The  influence  of  her  family      Other motifs that recur in her works are                               meant to be seen as just that - decoration. Some    inspiration in the small town of Namboodiri priests
         throughout her works in all mediums has been       clotheslines  and  charpoys.  The  charpoys  are                       of her favourite motifs to return to, like goats, kites,   with their threads, forehead markings and
         evident in  her  oeuvre.  When  asked  about  her   pictured in landscapes inspired by her travels                        balloons, and crows would later take on meaning     traditional clothing. This would become one of her
         inspirations, the artist has said in the past, “…my   through rural Kerala. Large expanses of green                       as Menon’s personal experiences grew. With the      more prominent series as it was also her first foray
         amazing family, so many of whom have been          fields can be seen set against the bright skies, with                   birth of her two sons and as she witnessed them     into subjects that were so identifiably Indian.
         great achievers, and also the impact that          the cots themselves being set with a blanket and                       growing up, her works would become increasingly
         literature, music and books have left on me.       other assorted objects.                                                peppered with symbols of their childhood, like toys   Anjolie Menon has also been deeply fascinated by
         Vivekananda, Bach, Modigliani, Henry Miller,                                                                              and kites. Goats also hold significance for her as   the subject of life and death, delving into them
         Pudovkin, Ingmar Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Rublev,    The urban landscape too has moved the artist to                        she witnessed the goat herders of Nizammudin        in-depth through her works. This can be witnessed
         Bosch, Camus, Bhimsen Joshi, Ayn Rand,             create several works, with her time in Bombay and                      Basti in New Delhi every day as she worked in her   in her artworks created after the Bangladesh war
         Corbusier, DK Pattamal, and Gaugin have affected   Delhi  being  highly  influential  for  her.  “Menon  is                studio. They would especially hold significance in   in 1971. The massacre deeply moved the artist to
         me profoundly at differently times of my life.”    particularly distinct because she has debunked                         her art when she would be kept away from the        create paintings featuring piles of victims of the
                                                            the   reigning  credos  of   representing  the                         basti due to the pandemic, churning out many        violence that occurred. Her other moving works
         As has been made evident over the years, Menon     contemporary Indian city – its areas of deeply                         smaller-scale works with makeshift apparatus.       post the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002
         has experimented with various mediums, genres      conflicted   urbanism   or   the   smart   slick                                                                            depicts infants, mothers and other helpless
         and subjects, making sure not to be held down by   representation of modernity, to revert to images of                    The sights and sounds of the area have influenced    victims in heart-wrenching scenes. ‘Tsunami’ from
         her own cliches. She has said in the past, “I am   non-space, non-time, the evocation of pastiche                         many of her works - “My studio has been in the      the year 2005 depicts another tragedy, with a
         neither a didactic nor narrative painter. I am hardly   and  cross-cultural  references,“  said  art  curator             visually  rich  basti  for 20  years  where  the    woman holding her infant close, surrounded by
         concerned  with  events,  though  I  like  to  lay  my   and critic Gayatri Sinha about Anjolie Menon.                    inhabitants,  the goats, dogs and chickens,  have   fish.
         people bare – I like to bare them a bit beyond what                                                                       been a part of my artworks. Crows often found
         is decent, sometimes ripping open a chest to       Famed for her compositions, Anjolie Ela Menon                          space in my works when I was in Mumbai. The
         reveal the heart beating within. Of course, there   has dealt with multiple subjects combined on one                      basti and the nearby dargah, regularly visited by
         are  many  who  have  identified  with  the  women  I   canvas. These works, perfected over a career                       people  of  different  nationalities,  are  a  constant
         paint, especially those who are trapped or sitting   spanning six decades, tell stories that have been                    source of inspiration.”
         alone on a chair, or those innocent ones with a    influenced  by  her  laborious  studies,  the  art  that
         newly-awakened sensuality, and those who are       has moved her and the people and geographies                           Rites  of  passage  too  would  form  a  significant
         waiting.”                                          she has encountered on her many travels. While                         portion of her compositions. She chronicles the
                                                            her practice has seen many evolutions since she                        various  important life events in people’s lives,
         Many of her works deal with nostalgia, imagination   began painting, the brooding fantastical quality                     including thread ceremonies and the day of a
         or a beautiful mix of both. Speaking of this to Asian   has remained pervasive throughout. Inspired by                    wedding. In the painting titled ‘Wedding Day’, the
         Age, the artist says, “Nostalgia plays a big part in   the likes of Hieronymus Bosch and Modigliani, her                  apprehension of the bride-to-be is palpable as she
         my oeuvre but is transmuted through the            paintings combine a sense of the absurd with the                       is attended by an older woman while her husband
         experiences  and  visual  experiences  of  today’s   serene. Speaking on her own evolution, she once                      waits for her, hidden behind the drapes. She would
         inspirations. Also, some of the contradictions in   said to Outlook India, “As a young woman my work                      also repeat the theme of women protagonists
         impulses are deliberate. For instance, I do attempt   was far more spontaneous both in conception and                     enveloped  in  uncertainty  in  paintings  like
         in many of these works to escape the tendency to   technique. I think that the fecundity of                               ‘Grandma Ethel Comes To Kolkata’. The central
         paint pictures that are ‘too beautiful’. Aesthetics   motherhood had a great effect on my work in the                     subject is her own grandmother, a maternal figure
         have dominated my work at a time when harmony      middle years - the raw emotion coalescing with                         in her life, seen arriving in India for the first time
         and beauty had become almost dirty words! So       experience into a symbolic mode. Experiments                           with her entourage in tow and being greeted by
         now, I often try to deconstruct a painting,        with different media followed and I entered a more                     the sights of a new country. Her travels and the
         introducing a deliberate element of disturbance.”   cerebral phase with the understanding that the                        pilgrimages of others too played a large role in
         Although found rarely in Anjolie Menon’s oeuvre,   juxtaposition of visual images in illogical                            influencing  many  of  her  compositions.  Living  a
         the artist’s landscapes are unusually impactful.   sequences could result in 'deconstructing' a                           rather transient life as she moved from one city to
         Often framed by windows and curtains, there is     painting to achieve unusual results that 'happy                        another, one country to another with her

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