Page 19 - 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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