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A.P. Santhanaraj (1932-2009) – Modern & Contemporary Art from South India

Event Details

  • Address

    Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square London WC1H 0XG

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  • Date

    Saturday 23rd September 2023


SOAS’s Brunei Gallery and The Noble Sage are pleased to present an exhibition highlighting the art of the late A.P. Santhanaraj (1932 – 2009) in London, as well as that of some of his contemporaries, students, and followers, for global audiences keen to learn more about the artistic development in South India after Independence.

Dates: 19 Jul 2023 10:30 – 23 Sep 2023

The exhibition is open daily at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS: Tues-Sat: 10.30-5pm and until 8pm on Thurs. The show is free admission, all welcome. All works on display are for sale and prices are available on request.

A.P. Santhanaraj (1932-2009) is one of the most influential artists of the second wave that followed K.C.S. Paniker and S. Dhanapal out of the Madras College of Arts and Craft. Santhanaraj forged an artistic style of his own dedicated to ascertaining the various complexities of pictorial space through abstract engagement with figurative subject matter. Crucial to his work from the start was his love of line: its meandering through pictorial space, defining and dividing in its wake, shaping, and destroying form, aiding, and inhibiting light and colour. His spontaneous free line inspired his colour palette and archetypes to emerge, especially the female heroine or lovers in an embrace. These archetypes would appear from his subconscious through the jagged lines and the spatial areas they displaced within his process. Santhanaraj saw his line as fuelled by divine power. A devout Christian himself, his understanding of artmaking related just as much to Hindu interpretations of Shiva Nataraja – creating and destroying in its wake to form life.

To his last days, Santhanaraj experimented with abstraction and unconscious figuration. His paintings began with the placement of random pieces of paper on the canvas. These are then moved around the pictorial space whilst the canvas or paper itself is intermittently rotated and inspected from all angles. The methodology reveals symmetry with Jackson Pollock, a painter who in his abstraction would circle the canvas on the floor like a panther meeting its prey. Following this Santhanaraj would remove the pieces of paper, having logged the shapes to memory, and create imagery through line working from their memory. It is from this process that figuration would emerge. The resulting works have an aesthetic appeal similar to the art of M.F. Hussain though with more oscillation toward the abstract.