The show by Baiju Parthan and Shibu Natesan

Two prominent artists from southern India -Baiju Parthan and Shibu Natesan- had a show at Art Musings, Mumbai. If the latter's works on view are in watercolor and are based on modern ideas embedded in images that can easily be co-related to everyday life, the former works in acrylic on canvas to combine a mythic work with contemporary ideas and images; indeed, an intriguing combination!

Speaking about his thought processes as a painter, Shibu Natesan notes: "For me the process of painting is very much important, and so also the challenge of making pictures out of my thought process. Painting is something which has been so much done, throughout history, that while you are painting you can sometimes go through other painter's thought processes and understand why they did certain things." The artist constantly tries to express his current state of mind. He never uses any direct colors; he mixes them. They are symbolic of the artist's state of mind. Photographs often form the basis of his work

Born in 1966 in Thiruvananthapuram, he first studied at College of Fine Arts, Kerala (1982-87) and then did M.A. Printmaking from Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, in 1991. In 1996, he was selected for a two-year residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende in Kunsten, Amsterdam. In addition to winning several regional and national awards and scholarships, he has also won the Uriot prize at the Rijksakademie.

The artist has exhibited his work at renowned galleries across India including Fine Arts Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram (1987), Faculty of Fine Arts Gallery, Baroda (1995, 1998), Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (1995, 99), Linkage, Gallerie Nanaky De Vreeze, Amsterdam (1997), and Nature Morte, Delhi (1998). He has also shown his works internationally in countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands. Shibu Natesan currently resides in Baroda.

The other artist on view, Baiju Parthan, feels that the real challenge for him as a painter is not how to delineate his location by referring to cultural roots, but to assimilate the global cultural values and yet be able to defining his identity on his own terms.

Though a student of science and engineering, he took to art in 1974, when he stumbled onto a book detailing the history of Western art. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Painting (B.F.A) and a Bachelors Degree in Botany apart from a Post Graduation in Comparative Mythology. He has studied philosophy, and so also, computer programming, 3D graphics and animation. No surprise, the artist incorporates technological paradigms into art. In-between he worked as an illustrator for the Times of India.

He has been once quoted as saying: "Though I came to study art enamoured by art history and criticism, the whole experience made me terribly skeptical about the role played by art history and criticism in actual art making. You became refashioned clones of what was happening in the west, and that was unacceptable.

"For me art history and criticism became an oppressive presence always breathing down my neck whenever I picked up a brush or looked at a work of art. Of course, from the post-colonial perspective, I can justify this unease by pointing out that 'the history of art' was actually the history of western art which categorized all eastern art as 'decorative'." As far as his work is concerned, the quasi-cosmographical narrative that he formulates and presents as art object allows the artist to circumvent the compulsion to match steps with the art-historically defined and endorsed art practices.

His works like 'Brahma's Homepage' and 'Necessary Illusions with 24 Cups of Coffee' are a comment on the current Internet culture where an artistic experience can be extended by the number of choices given to the viewer. A viewer/participant builds a narrative through the text, interwoven with images, and sounds customized through the choices he or she makes. The choice of the hyper-linked virtual space of the computer as the medium makes the work break away from the convention of passive viewing. By manipulating the viewers sense of anticipation, he amplifies and makes visible the common thread that runs through all socially constructed world pictures, which are necessary to make sense of the world through generating coherent narratives and the intense desire for emancipation from the 'given'.

He has had solo shows at Masterpiece Gallery, Delhi (1992), Sophia Duchesne Gallery, Mumbai (1992, 1993, 1995), Chaze Gallery Margao, Goa (1996), The Gallery Madras (1997), and Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore (1999). He has also participated in major group exhibitions such as 'Four Visions' at The Gallery, Hong Kong, 'Chamatkara: Indian Contemporary Art' at Whiteley's Gallery, London, and the IX Asian Biennale in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He participated in Saffronart's month long artist work-live program in Los Angeles, in September 2001 along with artist F.N. Souza. Parthan lives and works in Mumbai.

The show by Baiju Parthan and Shibu Natesan at Art Musings, Admiralty Building, Colaba Cross Lane, Colaba till November 16, 2003.

View Shibu Natesan's catalogue View Baiju Parthan's catalogue

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