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V. Narayanan

Chennai, India Born 1972

Achieved MFA in Painting & Printmaking from the Government College of Arts & Crafts, Chennai in 2001

Selected Exhibitions and Awards

In the Fore, The Noble Sage, London, 2009; PADIVU group show, Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai, 2009; Between the Lines group show, Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai, 2008; The Madras Canvas II group show, Forum Art Gallery, Chennai, 2008; 50th National Exhibition of Art, Chandigarh, 2008; `Creativity and the Monsoon Madness group show, Apparao Galleries, Chennai, 2007; `The Tenth Planet group show, Apparao Galleries, Chennai & New Delhi 2007; The Madras Canvas group show, Forum Art Gallery, Chennai, 2007; Genesis Group Show (I-VIII), Chennai, Bangalore and New Delhi, 1996-2006; MFA Students Exhibition, Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai 2000; Working Artist Exhibition, Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai 2000; Tamil Nadu Ovia Nunkalai Kuzhu, Chennai, 1995-2000; AIFACS regional exhibition, Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai 1997; Research Grant from Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 2001-2002; State Award, Lalit Kala Akademi, 2000; Best Student Award, Madras College of Arts & Crafts 1995 & 98


Fire is an important element in the visual vocabulary of the artist Narayanan. Indeed it has a special meaning also to most Indians. It is metaphorically associated with life, existence, the proof and creation of life, the reverence and humility one shows to our mortality. One thinks of the countless stories in Hindu myths which involve the giving of boons over open fires, the lamp that worshippers touch during religious rituals in temples and the fire-walk in rural Indian villages that shows strength of mind or meditative state. It is a naked flame that is in one of Shiva Natarajas hands and it is within a symbolic circle of fire that the God dances, creating and destroying all in His path. For Narayanan the Lifespan series began with a fateful step onto a cigarette butt on the ground: When I moved my foot, an ant crawled out, the artist remembers. It was this visual juxtaposition of life appearing from something burnt out that prompted the work: the concept of breathing life into an object associated with fire (an object identified by its need to be incinerated) to show its life summed up in such a way that it lives again. Like Lord Shiva, Narayaran destroys to create.

Narayanan hones in on those daily domestic usages of fire in India in his Lifespan series the mosquito coil, the firecracker, the matchbox and matchstick and the candle. They are used in countless scenarios every day, not necessarily at night. To Narayanan, the objects, when combined with fire, come to replace their owners in a sense; they too have a lifespan, a period of time that they can last, that they can live. Similar to his artist friend, Ganesh Selvaraj, with whom he has been showing for many years now as part of the four-man Genesis group, Narayanan busies himself with the complexities of life as represented by the process of his art. Narayanan finds the plotting and documentation of the matchstick or the candles demise illuminating. Indeed, as enlightening as the final appearance of the deceased item. The remains, like that of a decayed human, bare only partial resemblance to the original. All of its life is paraphrased before us. The subject of the transience of life is a well-trod path in Western art history. It has been described using bubbles in the wind, flowers with falling petals, aged women juxtaposed with young girls adorning themselves. In this series we see Narayanan add to this repertoire with his unique understanding of the world in which we live. The finish is exquisite, each conceptual piece being of a stylish design, perfectly capturing the impossibility of avoiding the impermanence of our lives ends.

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