The Walls Have Eyes

And a soul. And ears to take in the noise around them. But Rashmi Rajgopal believes that the murals and paintings of Anjolie Ela Menon have more than just the basic senses. 

Mumbai: For those of you living in South Mumbai, you must be familiar with Khyber, the restaurant right opposite Rhythm House/Westside (depending on which side of the road you’re viewing it from). For some of you, “must be familiar” is a gross understatement and a personal offense. You’re a legend at Khyber. Maybe you play a counting game in which you disappear amidst the food in front of you and emerge again breathless, shamelessly grinning, unable to conceal your greed. And then dive right in again. But you’re still no competition for the other kind of legend at Khyber—the silent ones that stare back at you from the comfort of their walled-in homes. The murals have their eyes on you.

They don’t exist for your viewing pleasure. You exist for theirs. Source: Just Google the restaurant. And refer to the subtext, perhaps.

They don’t exist for your viewing pleasure. You exist for theirs.
Source: Google. And refer to the subtext, perhaps.

But sit back and enjoy the food—this post isn’t about your awful eating habits. This post is about the artist who breathed life into the walls of restaurants and airports. Like the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Terminal 3. Let’s talk about Padma Shri awardee Anjolie Ela Menon.  If you recollect, she was recently given the Dayawati Modi Award for her “outstanding genius and significant contributions to Indian Art and Culture”.

Sure, accomplished people win awards, you say almost dismissively. But you also admit that there’s something mesmerising about Menon’s creations: her choice of palette and medium; the warm undertones and the subtle glow emanating from those faces staring back at you with their hollowed-out eyes. The eyes. Those irreplicable eyes.

Have this Head of a Boy from 1988, stare at you for hours from your wall. Just do it. Source: “Anjolie ElaMenon: Through the Patina”, New Delhi: Vadehra Art Gallery, 2010, p88

Have this Head of a Boy from 1988 stare at you for hours from your wall. Just do it.
Source: “Anjolie ElaMenon: Through the Patina”, New Delhi: Vadehra Art Gallery, 2010, p88

Menon’s artistic evolution has taken place over the span of five (and more) decades. She began painting intuitively in her teenage years. Perhaps intuition wasn’t enough. Intuition was probably that skinny kid in the playground that struggled to push the swing high enough. Who was to help her? Menon’s encounter with the modern art movement in Europe, her formal schooling at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, her extensive travails, the influence of Byzantium and Romanesque art…they gave her that giant push in the direction of epicness. And then there’s her signature oil-on-masonite, a choice she describes as “a happy accident”. Masonite gave her works a whole new texture…and the art world must’ve been pretty happy about the “accident” themselves. And so Menon has continued with her stunning portraits, each oozing character and narrative potential (from my pov).

This patina Head on masonite from 2004 calls forth ghosts of the past. Source: “Anjolie ElaMenon: Through the Patina”, New Delhi: Vadehra Art Gallery, 2010, p92

This patina-toned Head on masonite from 2004 calls forth ghosts of the past.
Source: “Anjolie ElaMenon: Through the Patina”, New Delhi: Vadehra Art Gallery, 2010, p92

Which brings us back to the murals of Khyber, each with their own story, their eyes fixed upon you as you gulp down dish after dish. Scroll back to the very first image. That apple  she’s holding, the bird perched on his hand? Nope, they’re just there to make you think you’re not being watched. Anjolie Ela Menon’s murals will follow you, right till you step outside Khyber, slightly nervous, perhaps haunt you way after your meal. Hey, maybe that is their true purpose. All art has a purpose, right?

About the Author

Posted by

Categories:

Art

Add a Response

Your name, email address, and comment are required. We will not publish your email.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The following HTML tags can be used in the comment field: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: