Shankar Kendale’s spring is here

Shankar Kendale always, for as long as he could remember, wanted to be an artist. Growing up in rural India, however, when options were limited, becoming an artist was an outrageous proposition. His parents certainly thought so and a resigned Shankar signed up to study Science at a local college. "You can cut all the flowers but you cannot stop spring from coming." Pablo Neruda's words spring to mind, for despite his situation, little could quiet the artist within him. During these days, still in his early 20s, Shankar would track down studios where cinema posters were painted.

Days were passed in this studio as he pottered about, taking on small tasks and learning his way around a canvas. A canvas that was 20 feet long and 10 feet high, no less. "That is where I first started painting," he says. "It's a completely different experience- the work is so big and when you stand close to the canvas, you can't see it in its entirety either.' This was also where he first learned to use oil paints – not the expensive Camel variety either, but low-cost powders. Today, as he looks back, these early memories still strike a chord deep within him.

Cross hatching is a painstaking process, it requires a sharp eye, a steady hand and much patience. When Kendale decided to experiment with line drawings, cross hatching was his technique of choice. It cost him dearly – a month spent bending over a table caused him severe spinal troubles and he vowed, then, that he would part ways with his line drawings. The drawings that still remain will be on display at Crimson – The Art Resource, where Shankar Kendale, one of the stalwarts from the Bengaluru art scene, is having a solo show.

The name Shankar Kendale has become synonymous with figurative works of rural women in rustic settings, of temple life and folk customs. While Kendale doesn't disagree with this, 50-years since he started out in the profession, he still argues that he is a work in progress. Kendale is driven by the need for change and exploration, of finding new ways to express himself. "Who wants to see more of the same?" he asks. "People want to see something different. I want them to say, 'Oh, Kendale can do drawings also'? It satisfies me as an artist, too."

Shankar made his way to Bengaluru in 1980 – "I had heard about the climate and the people," he says, adding, after a moment, "It's nothing like it used to be now!" He landed a job at Ogilvy and Mather, working out of an office on M.G. Road. It wasn't long, though, before his artistic compulsions returned and Shankar abandoned the straight and narrow for good this time.

Wandering through rural Karnataka became a rich source of inspiration. Shankar never ceased to wonder at the richness of cultural diversity – "Everything changes completely every 100 kilometres," he remarks. "Even Bengaluru, for that matter, is home to so many kinds of people!" Cultural diversity, which usually originated through temples and local religious customs, manifests itself in the women. "Even their attire changes from place to place," he says. That's how the rural Indian woman became his constant muse. "I have been going to temples every morning for the last 30 years." Whether it's the Anjaneya Temple in Jayanagar or local deities in rural heartlands, Kendale is constantly fascinated.

When he began, however, galleries were few and far between, if they existed at all. When they did arrive on the scene, they catered primarily to the tastes of their audiences, which meant oil paintings were always in demand. "I did quite a few of those," he recalls.

His paintings are rich in religious symbols and imagery, odes to saints and even the Devnagiri script, which he says hasn't been done before. When it comes together, with Kendale's restrained but vibrant use of colour and the detailing in his crosshatches, the works form a tapestry of life, the human experience, our search for the divine and a celebration of the earth itself.

What: Exhibition of paintings by Shankar Kendale
When: Oct. 12 to Nov. 10
Where: Crimson, Hatworks Boulevard, Cunningham Road



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