January's been mostly devoid of big name openings, giving lesser known artists a place in the peak-season limelight. The Guild, a gallery that has consistently showcased new talent, has a solo by Lokesh Khodke, which I viewed today. My first feeling on encountering Khodke's canvases was, "Here's a Marathi boy trying to paint like a Mallu." As it happened, a Baroda-based artist was in the gallery, and when she asked me what I thought, I mentioned this response. She pursed her lips in an expression I took to be somewhere between non-committal and disapproving.
Here's a large oil from Khodke's exhibition.
And here's a painting by Ratheesh T., an exciting young artist based in Trivandrum.
The colours Ratheesh uses jump out at you, and his affinity for the bizarre is entirely unforced. Visual lushness, sometimes bordering on kitsch, comes naturally to many Malayali artists, as does dreamlike or nightmarish imagery. It's easy to connect their palette to the landscape of their home state. Lokesh Khodke, on the other hand, appears to be working self-consciously in a surrealistic mode. His pictures, lacking the quirkiness one sees in Ratheesh, end up resorting to some fairly obvious symbols. The images demand lavish, luminous hues, but he holds back, reluctant or unable to go the whole hog.
Once back home, I read the exhibition catalogue and discovered that Khodke was born and raised in Bhopal, not Maharashtra as I'd assumed. I hope he develops imagery connected to the visual culture and landscape of his childhood and youth instead of following painters who influenced him while a student at M S University Baroda's Faculty of Fine Arts.