Micro Trends 2021, a display of affordable miniature and small format works by 23 artists at Cholamandal Artists’ Village, aims to takes art beyond a niche audience
In 1971, KCS Panicker, president of the Progressive Painters’ Association founded in 1944, led a brigade of artists from Madras to Pune to display miniature works. To everyone’s surprise, they returned empty-handed having sold all the artworks. Veteran artist P Gopinath was one among them.He recalls, “Back then, the artworks were priced from ₹25 to ₹100.” Students and unconventional patrons who wished to make inroads into art collection through accessible art, made up most of the buyers. “They used to tell us that they liked paintings and sculptures but didn’t have a big space to exhibit large artworks,” says Gopinath. Thanks to the overwhelming response, the same group then showed in Bombay and Madras in 1972, only to meet a similar interest.In 2021, after a bleak year coloured by an ongoing pandemic, the same format makes up Micro Trends 2021, a physical exhibition that shows works of 23 artists at Cholamandal Artists’ Village. Though Micro Trends was earlier shown in 2015 and 2017, this time around, it becomes the first physical exhibition that the participating artists have been in, since a year. With a rich line-up of veteran and budding artists, the display boasts of multiple narratives and many themes — the only common factor being that the works are of a smaller format (small in size, and affordable) .
S Saravanan, the sitting president of the Progressive Painters’ Association says, “The price and size of an artwork is always in the way of the viewer. Nowadays, big paintings or sculptures can’t be seen in modern homes because of the lack of space. So, the small works if priced low, can reach a larger art-loving public. The accessibility can also create a genuine home for art. Art should not be considered a luxury.” Each of the artists have contributed four of their works to the display that houses paintings not more than 1 ft x 1 ft and sculptures not taller than 1 ft.Senior artists who make up the Madras Art Movement, like P Gopinath, SG Vasudev, M Senathipathi, D Venkatapathy, C Douglas, Akkitham Narayanan, PS Nandhan, Premalatha Seshadri are contributors. A miniature format is often the only way through which first-time buyers, amateur collectors and art students can get their hands on works by these giants. “Apart from canvases, works done on granite, metal relief, copper-welded sculptures… are part of the exhibition. And these are especially difficult to make in a miniature format,” says Saravanan who also strayed away from his medium of comfort (acrylic on canvas) to experiment with handmade metal relief work.He explains the laborious process, “The metal is beaten and brough to shape. It is then engraved and coloured with enamel colours. Once the metal is heated, the enamel colour melts and sticks to the metal. Finally, a silver polishing is done and the work is coated in oil paints to render it an antique quality.” The detailing calls for a lot of physical labour, especially as a miniature.
Gopinath agrees. “Making smaller works is more difficult because you are constantly concentrating on the space. There is more work involved.” His semi-abstract paintings (acrylic on canvas) with emphasis on patterns and colours, asks the question, “What makes a real picture?” This untitled series was done over a few weeks.“Working and reworking goes on until one is satisfied,” he adds. S Hemalatha, a sculptor who specialises on lending contemporary tones to mythological characters and traditional temple motifs, has displayed sculptures of Ganesha, Jesus Christ and a rendition of a dancing fish. “In a miniature sculpture, each and every part is very minute. Even while welding parts, it has to be held with precision and care. But many art lovers show a lot of interest,” adds Hemalatha whose works are around six inches in height. Though the past year had been financially difficult for many in Cholamandal Artists’ Village, they were able to work undisturbed for longer periods, resulting in collections that are ready to be displayed. The market however continues to be dull. Micro Trends 2021 hopes to reach out to the city, and capture imaginations through art again. Micro Trends 2021 will be on display till April 30 from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm, including Sundays. There will be thermal screenings and sanitising stations at the gallery. Viewers will be allowed entry in a staggered manner.