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K. Benitha Perciyal

Chennai, India Born 1978

Attained a BFA and MFA Degree in Painting and Printmaking at the Government College of Arts & Crafts, Chennai (1996-2002)

Selected Solo Exhibitions

Artist of the Month Solo Exhibition, Cholamandal Artist Village, Chennai (2010); Alliance Francaise of Madras, Chennai (2004); Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai(2003); Max Muller Bhavan, Chennai (2003)

Selected Group Exhibitions

'Trilogy', The Noble Sage Art Gallery, London (2008); Surface to Origin, Gallery Soulflower, Bangkok (2008); Travelling Tales from a Showboat, Apparao Galleries, Chennai (2007); Best of South, Apparao Galleries, Delhi (2007); Whirlpool of Fate, India Habitat Centre, Delhi (2007); She, India, The Noble Sage, London (2007); Chennai Excite, The Noble Sage, London (2006); Self & Identity, Palazzo Art Gallery, Chennai (2005-6); International Mini-Print Show, Cadaques, Spain (2005); Indian Art Exhibition, Accra, Ghana (2005); Expressions: The Art Within: an exhibition of paintings by contemporary artists,Kasthuri Srinivasan Art Gallery, Coimbatoire (2005); Woman @rt 2005 Forum (2005); Apparao Gallery, Chennai (2004); The Sixth Southern Region Art Exhibition, Bangalore (2004); Tamil Nadu Oviam Nunkalai Kuzhu (1996-2003); ABC Show, Apparao Gallery (2003); National Exhibition of Art (2002); Three Man Show, Palazzo Art Gallery, Chennai (2002); National Exhibition of Art (2001); All India Fine Arts & Crafts Society Jubilee Exhibition (2000); Genesis 2Print Show (1996)

Selected Awards

National Winner of Camlin European Art Tour Scholarship (2005); The Camlin 6th Southern Region Art Award (2004); Young Artist Scholarship, Department of Culture (2003-5); Research Grant from Lalit Kala Akademi (2003-4); Arnawaz Vasudev Charities Scholarship (2002-4); State Award by Lalit Kala Akademi, Tamil Nadu (2000)

An excerpt from a conversation with critic, Ashrafi Bhagat, in 2011 for ART CHENNAI:

I have always had the feeling of being neglected. So the self occupies a prominent place in my art. Because of this interface with my body, I have gradually been able to understand myself better. Moreover my personality has changed and I have become more open. This is evident in the use of the soft feathery intimate touch of the paper surfaces I now work with, which also extends to the tactile feel of my pet the squirrel that has become a central part of my art and life. So art has led me from a personal restlessness to a state of equilibrium.

The role of material came when I began to use the studio space in Lalit Kala Akademi. That was when I did not have money. I had the Lalit Kala scholarship for a year, which was Rs.3000 a month. I started by using found objects and basic materials like pencils, watercolour, poster colour and packing sheets. Since I never wanted or could not connect with the plain surface, I enjoyed these tactile and textured materials. In 2003-04 I started using red marking ink, which was lying in the studio. I was dripping ink on paper; then I connected with the floor, as the studio is full of paint drops. Later Valsan Koorma Kolleri invited a couple of artists to do a project in Kerala, soon after the monsoon. I began seeing fungus everywhere. The paint drop and fungus became the same motif. So that became a part of my landscape.

Later Asma and Douglas gifted me two different types of rice paper. I was then working with different paper surfaces like matt, gloss and gel, which would show the scratch even in the final layer of my work. But when I started using the rice papers, I understood how important materials were to my process; to conceal as well as reveal. When the colours, particularly tea stains, started to spread on rice paper I was surprised because each time was different; each drop made its own landscape. Later I found everything was silent on the surface. I tore one single piece but left a hole in it. I was afraid to see the hole in the paper so I started to tear the paper separately and dyed them individually and layered them resulting in endless landscapes silently layered in a single imagery. When I was dyeing the paper, the stain penetrated underneath, so I would spread the sheet underneath the rice paper pieces. The result was that so many stains of different days/months layered under the surface that I started looking at the same paint drops or a fungal image into my cycle. Over time it has given me new perspective. One leads into another and that is how my work progresses and develops. I now use kaduka, tea and basic pigments used in kalamkari and materials like seeds, natural glue, handmade paper ...sometimes I work with wood, ceramics, terracotta and fabric. The colour I use is my body colour; the material has an organic origin like our body. This brown also has negative connotations but when I use it to represent my squirrel or the tree it has a positive energy and makes me feel like I am part of Nature.

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N. Prasannakumar on K. Benitha Perciyal

I met Benitha in 1998 during my BFA. I remember that moment I saw her making her first portrait of herself in a mirror. She was looking at herself in a window in a door working from her reflection. That was where it all started for her. Her portraits. This became her dominant motif, her own head and shoulders. Her love of natural earthy colours also goes back to those days. She would find a seed on the ground and be drawn into the form and colour that she saw before her, almost obsessively. She would try to replicate that colour in her work, finally using the actual natural object, the actual seed, ground up and mixed with oil or water in her painting. It was fascinating to watch.† † † † ††

A highly sought-after artist of The Noble Sage, K. Benitha Perciyal is a young, talented mixed media painter whose skill and imagination is at once striking and impressive. Her earlier work was a notably dark experience for the viewer. They were psychological, often autobiographical portraits that exposed her deepest fears and anxieties. Today her explorations of her self, her psyche, are articulated by the artist in a subtly different tone. Her work is altogether much softer, meaning less to grab the audience by the arm than lead them gently by the shoulder. Perciyals art has reacted to her success by becoming more positive and life-affirming. She uses the materiality of her natural mediums to bring a sensation of warmth and familiarity for the viewer. Colours and textures exude a new welcoming aspect in their choice and execution that no doubt reflects the mental wellbeing of the young artist. A good example is her new 2008 Jerry series of works. Jerry is her pet squirrel that she befriended in the Lalit Kala Akademi studio a few years back. Today she looks after this creature like a mother, with kindness and love. It has awakened in her feelings she wasnt aware she had in abundance as well as given her a new understanding of those little sweet things of life that are so easily overlooked. The process of her art is as arduous as ever however. Her interest now being to work as much as possible with naturally-born media (the colour created from soil, cardamom, saffron, ground leaves etc.) on naturally-made materials such as handmade paper or other surfaces and fabrics she has collected on her numerous trips abroad and throughout India.† † †