15 January - 24 February, 2018
Nov - Dec, 2014
Kumara Gandharva, the legendary vocalist in the Indian classical tradition once gave a very interesting justification of his inclusion of a ‘varjya swara'- an adverse note in a particular Raga. He said that the ‘swara’ was coaxing me repeatedly to let it in. I could not help oblige. The new series of Santana’s work would remind the viewers of that anecdote. A few elements that were never a part of her parlance earlier are surfacing in her recent work and like the ‘vivadi swara’ in Kumarji’s rendering, these elements are enriching it further. Her somber, contemplative idiom still retains its usual pondering, pensive disposition but ushers in a lyrical, redolent note of color into it. The rustic siennas and grays are now replaced with yearning, pining mauves and magentas.
Santana keeps experimenting with the surface of her work and has adopted extremely dreary methods that necessitate intense physical involvement to achieve the desired results. She uses cotton fiber paper, mounted on board in place of canvas. To give it cotton like feel, she peels off the top layer of the paper. Earlier, she meticulously replicated the appearance of copper or rusted tin sheets in her work and to achieve that effect she used to work with her bare palms on this surface. Her fascination for the sheer physicality of the surface ensues into scratching, rubbing and caressing the surface of her ‘painting’ till it gets vulnerable and concedes to her volition. In her recent work she engraves the surface with minute patterns and motifs generated through the dotted lines using the motorised engraving tool. These small engraved patches that bear the tactility of embroidered fabric fit together like an angular jigsaw puzzle and appear like an aerial view of the patches of tilled fields or resemble with the quilts stitched out of rags by the village women.
The first painting of this series that she engraved, divulges an intricate play of patterns and textures in white but as said earlier, this is where a few small patches of mauve creep into her work, though very small, very conspicuous due to the sharp contrast with the rest of the surface. These mauves and purples spread all over the surface in her later work and are followed by many other elements and objects, mainly flowers and floral motifs which otherwise were never seen in her idiom before, noticeably transmuting her vocabulary.
Interestingly, her manner of building up the forms and application of colors divulge a marked analogy with musical expression. Like a musician, who opens the recitation with distinct notes and goes on overlapping those notes with the new ones to build up a composition - sonata or Raga; Santana too begins with distinct forms and colors but goes on masking them with hues of mauve and purple. Colors and forms, contrary to their nature get ephemeral in her work but they do leave behind their traces and memories. They are transient like the musical notes that surrender their individual subsistence to the totality of the rendition. The flowers cease to be flowers, the greens and blues relinquish their effulgence and they subscribe to the nostalgic, melancholic musings of the painter.