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First Take 2021 Jury: The perception of trajectories with artist Rm Palaniappan


Not all lines need to be boundaries, or even bound to expectations. They could even be described as boundless when it comes to the art of Rm Palaniappan, whose experiments with geometric style, symmetry and the usage of space dominate most frames he creates.

It is not much of a wonder then that a fascination for scientific and philosophical concepts has provoked and evolved this keen eye in the Chennai-based artist. His acrylic paintings from 2019 and 2020 focus on the line as a visual tool, describing its myriad trajectories, manifestations and interactions.

But to start at the very beginning, Palaniappan was born in 1957 at Devakottai in Tamil Nadu (TN). After studying at the Government College of Arts Crafts, he took up the study of advanced Lithography at the Tamarind Institute (USA) in 1991 and was the Artist in Residency at the Oxford University in 1996, too.

Since childhood, Palaniappan held an abiding interest in mathematics and astronomy — which has clearly manifested in his art as an adult.

Interestingly, this has also served as a strong source of inspiration to develop a perspective towards minimalist abstract works for Palaniappan.

A keen wonder for science and psychology transforms into subject matter for his art. He uniquely captures movement and how we see it — his art has been described by critics as “an organisation of mixed media collage materials on print investigating the relationship of various motions in the context of various perceptions”.

Palaniappan has, in earlier interviews, admitted: “Numbers interest me because they are both finite and infinite.” It is this sense of infinity that soars in many of his earlier artworks, as he has also been moved by the phenomenon of flying, especially after his first physical experience on a flight in 1990 and seeing land patterns through the window, changing his perception of moving land architectures.

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His interest in both aeronautics as well as systems of notations that signify specifics of time, place and sequence can be glimpsed in his art, and much of its imagery tends to display textural and landscape elements.

Many of his earlier works were based on war films, flying machines and flight, movement and motion.

Circa the end of the Eighties, there was a shift in his creative journey towards manifesting different perceptions of the world, and he began experimenting with the interactivity of forms and space, with an interesting focus on the significance of negative space.

Palaniappan has worked with many mixed media prints, embellishing his works with rubber stamps, wax seals, collage materials and embossing.

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Over the years, he has been the recipient of numerous honours, including awards and residencies such as the Fulbright Grant, Charles Wallace India Trust grant, International Visitorship programme of USIS, and Senior Fellowship, Govt of India. Further, the cultural wings of both France and Germany have invited him to visit, as has the United States Department of External Affairs, as well as Education Australia, by the invitation of the country’s Minister of External Affairs.

Some of the museums and prestigious collections that Palaniappan’s artworks grace include Lalit Kala Akademi and the National Gallery of Modern Art, both in New Delhi; London’s British Museum and Victoria Albert Museum, besides Oxford University, Oxford; this list also includes the Cincinnati Art Museum, Tamarind Institute, and Library of Congress, Washington-USA; Taipei Art Museum, Taiwan; Boras Museum, Sweden.

Today, the 64-year-old artist’s most remarkable eye and artistic heft join the respected jury for the fifth edition of Abir India Foundation’s First Take 2021.  The eminent panel, on which Palaniappan is a member, will select the best 10 from thousands of handpicked entries to be awarded in a show, after democratic and transparent deliberation.

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