The Account of the Celestial in P. Gnana’s Work

P. Gnana’s (b.1970) art engages the discipline of form and texture succinctly, where he returns his viewers to the primal wonders of life. Rendering a strong visual language to stages of infancy and spiritual awakenings, the artist works through metaphors. The aesthetics in his work brings out a sharp volume in the matriarch figure, where the figure adorns the child by offering a physical and metaphysical sanctuary. As one looks through his creations, one encounters a deep sense of pride in the beauty of camaraderie and bonding. To him, perhaps, this blinding sense of faith in interpersonal relationships remains intact and clouded in the ambiguous nature of its own enactments and attachments as variable experiences.

Again, this ambiguity also extends itself to the idea of consequences, which can be seen as possible inferences to death or, even, finality. The eyes of his figures remain shut, almost content. For instance, the blurring adds a dark established semantics to the closed eyes and one can see the portrayal as definite. The finality in their visage is a promise of the contentment that death has to offer as often described in the belief of ‘life after death’ or, perhaps, the importance laid on the sense of completion. One may wonder if this completion is a semantical investment in the idea of life cycles – maybe, even an investment into the idea of longing.

Gnana’s work views nostalgia as a technical skill, where each brush stroke reworks through vibrant colours depicting energy and consciousness. This nostalgia is the actual subject that he layers in his concerns with finality. Therefore, reverberating through bold, bright colours, the viewer is exposed to Gnana’s work as a metaphorical expression of death, nostalgia, and metaphysics.

His paintings and sculptures refer to the element of excess in South-Asian aesthetics, where he occasionally toys with a glossy finish as the final act of art-making. The glossy texture, simultaneously, projects the notion of a refreshing textural engagement which the artist serves as his take on his subjects.

Gnana’s artistic language also sheds light on the spiritual narratives. Krishna plays a pivotal role of form and philosophical engagements. His flute and his cow hold an important visual position relating with the artist's creative realm and his insight into vast cosmic belief systems. Here, the figure of Krishna is peaceful and involved in his own love for music while music becomes Gnana’s means to engage with the Arts in a more precise manner.

Interestingly, his bold, dark skylines depict the enormity of the spiritual inclinations. They feature the depth of his spiritual vision too. Simultaneously, his engagement with family and motherhood consists of the qualities of nourishment and health.

Again, there is a tendency in the artist to partake in the aesthetics of glamour, where we are exposed to intricate embellished details on the fabric of his figures. These details are made in gold paint that add the grandeur value and, with the gloss on top, they begin to turn towards a sheen more sprightly then the other colours. Motifs of flowers, leaves, paisley, and similar other popularised vernacular embroideries on the clothings of his protagonists makes his paintings a commentary on the various traditional schools of art-making. Also, there are times when the artist has indulged his creations in exploring found objects, such as textile and playing cards.

Gnana’s artistic pursuits lead him through a strong sense of variants which he further elaborates in a more immediate flavour. It is particularly important to look at his personal journey that has led him to this blending in schools.

Gnana’s training in sculpting was initially staged at LASALLE college of Arts, Singapore, where he found a way to incorporate ‘the lost wax’ technique to his sculptures. In this, he has to wait for molten wax to obtain the desired mould for his sculptures. This gave his sculptures a progressive method to engage with found objects to add to his creativity. This was further included in his canvas art as well. One may say that given the artist's special love for oil on canvas, it is definitely necessary to look at how his art addresses shifts between mediums.

Another drama unfolds as we look through his works, where we see the beauty of his forms stage itself beyond the source of reflection. It contemplates love as an action of attachment and interacts with ‘shared’ emotions or bonds. Romance and the celestial beings in his work brings forward a realized strength of the self. He approaches the subject through a visual language of grandiosity similar to the ‘secession’ movement in the Arts. The hint at the Apollonian structures are quite evident in his sculptures too. The drama of the tall, stretched bodies adorned in the marvels of designs and embellishments also hint at this possible influence.

Simultaneously, Gnana has claimed that he has a special interest in the works of Jackson Pollock, Andre Masson, Amedeo Modigliani, and Anish Kapoor, who are all very distinct in style and in their visual language from one another.

– Satarupa Bhattacharya (M.Phil, Ph.D)