From Ash to Spring

Delhi based artist G. R. Iranna employs carefully chosen motifs exploiting their visual and metaphorical potential. One such compelling motif that appears in Iranna’s body of work is that of the tree. Tree here is not merely a form or an image but an eternal entity. It stands as a silent witness hiding the mysteries, secrets, and stories of the world in its womb. It imbibes meditative qualities. The tree in Iranna’s paintings manifest in diverse forms – blooming, withering, turning into log, and coming back to life again. Presented here is a selection of paintings, From Ash to Spring, that take us on the journey of Iranna’s artistic exploration which is a visual treat. 

“While reflecting on a twenty-year period in the oeuvre of G. R. Iranna, I find myself marvelling at the variety of creative displacements to which he has subjected himself: he has negotiated between an account of the social predicament underwritten by the figure, yet has also revelled in the pleasures of abstraction and pattern; he has elaborated a vibrant form of compressed allegorical narrative in his paintings, yet has boldly translated his concerns with freedom, oppression and the desire for emancipation into sculpture and installation.” – writes eminent writer and curator Ranjit Hoskote in his curatorial note on the artist's solo exhibition ‘And the last shall be the first G. R. Iranna works 1995 - 2015’.

Iranna’s oeuvre spans from paintings to videos and sculptural installations, deeply dwelling into the innerness of human life and the existential crisis of the modern times – from temporal conflicts, to the spiritual dilemmas. Iranna is known for his paintings and sculptures that strikingly draw inspiration from philosophical doctrines, religious practices and symbols. He finds insights in Lingayatism and Buddhism that emphasise on inner peace and wisdom. His works are layered with evocative meanings and references to morality, wisdom and ways of life. He takes these spiritual strands to another level of creative expression by his artistic interventions and unique rendering – especially the ephemeral material he employs such as ash, clay and coal. His forms manifest in abstract manner, not in mere visual sense, but in the manner in which the imagery spans out through patterns, lines, pigments and textured surfaces, liberating the forms to envelope different characteristics.

Within Iranna’s exploration of nature, human existence and the interrelation between the two, the tree becomes an integral component in his works. For Iranna, the tree symbolizes life, with all its connectedness to nature in general and human life in particular. He deploys all its body parts –  branches, leaves, flowers, roots, trunk, and veins into his oeuvre. In its own sense, the tree becomes a vehicle of deep philosophical explorations about human-nature relationships which he attributes to his early upbringing in the traditional setting of gurukul in southern India.

In this artistic quest, materials and mediums Iranna deploys become important apparatuses. The ash has a deeper cultural and spiritual significance, sacredness and value which historically dates back to ancient times. Ash, also fundamentally residual remains of the tree seems to have found its way spontaneously in his creative process. Iranna exploits the sensibility and power of the ash by surpassing it from merely being a ‘medium’. For him, ash symbolizes both, the form and the formless. The non-conventional base he opts for his paintings such as tarpaulin play a significant role in bringing out the visual elements in a raw manner. The scale of these paintings, as he says, overpower with their presence just as the nature and magnanimity of trees do - take us within their fold, envelop us, make us feel part of them, at the same time there is also this feeling of awe the realization, more so now then before, that nature is all powerful.




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