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Artist Shibu Natesan’s solo show explores still life painted during lockdown

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New Delhi, Jan 20 (PTI) A pile of clothes, unclear whether washed or destined to be, chairs turned upside down on a table covered in dust, and a bunch of radishes hanging by a thread, limply drooping ever so slightly to present a morbid visual metaphor.

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Artist Shibu Natesan’s paintings show a world too real and within it is the subtext of lives caught in the maelstrom that was Covid-induced lockdown.

When Natesan found himself locked down inside his house after Covid-19 hit the world with full ferocity, he stopped seeking a subject elsewhere: it was all around him in the form of piles of newspapers, undelivered letters, fruits, vegetables, ceramic showpieces and self-portraits.

Created largely during the odd-three years of the lockdown, the paintings are part of the ongoing solo exhibition at Art Alive Gallery, titled “Four Favourites and Other Works: Recent Paintings”, and speak of an artist caught within the confines of his home.

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"I stayed at home and couldn’t do anything else, so I started painting still life. It’s not the first time I am capturing still life, but this time, I started to paint everything in my studio, the objects around me. I did a lot of self portraits as well,” Natesan told PTI.

A fusion of hyperrealism and surreal elements, Natesan’s body of work uses symbolism and meticulous attention to detail such as light, shadow and atmosphere.

In the middle of the paintings depicting sundry items is one featuring monographs of four great painters of Western art history – the 17th century Frans Hals, 18th century Goya, 19th century Manet and 20th century John Sargent.

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The centrepiece of Natesan’s exhibition depicts the painter’s attempt at making the four artists his contemporaries by painting their monographs in a style not unlike their own.

"I have a lot of books, but I selected these four artists from four different periods. I like their paintings, and what they stand for, the meaning of their paintings are all very important to me. I put myself in the same school of painting, it’s a very figurative kind of tradition they all carried,” the 57-year-old said.

Natesan added that through this painting he is “making a statement about the lineage” he comes from and also paying homage to the master painters.

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The realist style of paintings gives him clarity “to live in this world” and he considers himself the first audience of his works.

“I'm my first audience. I think what I am enjoying the viewer will enjoy too in these paintings. I can’t expect someone else to appreciate my paintings if I don't enjoy them,” he said.

The exhibition, a parallel show to India Art Fair, will be on view till February 25. PTI MAH BK MAH MAH

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