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Sneak peek: Laxman and Priyanka Aelay’s new series of paintings to be showcased at State Gallery of Art, Hyderabad

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A sneak peek into artists and father-daughter duo Laxman and Priyanka Aelay’s new series of paintings, ahead of their showcase in Hyderabad

A sneak peek into artists and father-daughter duo Laxman and Priyanka Aelay’s new series of paintings, ahead of their showcase in Hyderabad

The themes and styles of father-daughter duo artists Laxman and Priyanka Aelay are starkly different from each other. His floral-themed paintings in bright hues portray women in a festive atmosphere in rural Telangana, while her paintings depict the deep, mysterious forests with its diverse flora and fauna. Well-defined drawings form the basis of his work, while her forms are more free flowing. This writer got a preview of their new series at their studio in Somajiguda, Hyderabad, ahead of their exhibition at the State Gallery of Art, Hyderabad, from September 18 to 25. In October, the artists will be showcasing their respective series at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai. This is the first time the two will be hosting their solo shows simultaneously at the two galleries. 

A festive, floral series

Laxman Aelay’s Poolamma – the Goddess of Life series of paintings has a floral theme, inspired by Bathukamma festivities of Telangana. The large format paintings, some of them measuring 6×8 feet or more, feature rural Telangana women draped in bright saris, wearing jewellery and flowers. The floral theme dominates both the background and the motifs on the saris; vibrant colours come together in harmony in the paintings. 

A painting from Laxman Aelay’s Poolamma – the Goddess of Life series
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Step closer to the paintings and the distinct drawing outlines are visible. “Drawing continues to be the basis of my work,” the artist reiterates. The paintings have been done on a linen canvas and Laxman Aelay explains, “I like to use the reverse (beige) side of the canvas, which gives my paintings a matt, rather than a gloss, finish for a more traditional look.”

The veteran artist will be exhibiting 20 to 25 paintings, a few drawings and etchings from the Poolamma series. He had conceptualised the series a few years ago but several paintings took shape during the pandemic. The traditional Tangedu (the State flower of Telangana) and other stylised flowers are in the background. The paintings brim with distinct blues, oranges, pinks and greens in addition to vermillion reds and turmeric yellows: “I wanted specific shades that are not used often and imported some of the colours,” he says. 

A painting from Laxman Aelay’s Poolamma - the Goddess of Life series

A painting from Laxman Aelay’s Poolamma – the Goddess of Life series
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Several paintings depict one or two women, while a few feature groups of women dressed for the festivities. The expressions, posture of the women and the choice of floral motifs prevent monotony from creeping in. Flowers and birds inspired by kalamkari block prints feature in the synthetic-looking saris worn by the women: “Rural women have taken to wearing synthetic saris (due to affordability) and many traditional handloom motifs are being recreated on these saris. I wanted my paintings to reflect that,” reasons Laxman Aelay.

Meditative, mysterious forests

Priyanka’s style is markedly different from that of her father and consciously so, she says: “My father grew up in rural Telangana whereas I had an urban upbringing. If I portrayed rural men, women and their lifestyles, it wouldn’t be as authentic and lived-in as his work. I realised this in the second or third year of my graduation and consciously began developing an individualistic approach to art.”

A painting from the Proverbial Pathways series by Priyanka Aelay

A painting from the Proverbial Pathways series by Priyanka Aelay
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Flora and fauna, particularly wild cats, have been her signature themes. She had also exhibited a series of pen and ink drawings. With time, she observes that her art has become more spontaneous and free flowing. The flora and fauna are still predominant in her paintings, but she notices a refinement as her work evolves. She will be exhibiting more than 30 paintings as part of the series titled Proverbial Pathways. Deep forests, joyous floral and fauna and her interpretation of the folktale Bala Nagamma are some of the themes explored. 

“I have a rough imagery in mind when I begin painting. If I intend to paint wilderness, the different elements fall into place once I begin painting. I cannot pre-meditate the precise shapes of the branches of the trees or the placement of birds and animals,” Priyanka explains. Tigers in bright colours make an appearance occasionally, offsetting the dark forests. In one painting, what could be inferred as a brooding forest gets transformed by the presence of joyous birds. Tibetan clouds make an appearance in a few artworks.

A painting from the Proverbial Pathways series by Priyanka Aelay

A painting from the Proverbial Pathways series by Priyanka Aelay
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A distinct aspect of Priyanka’s work is to make the paintings appear as though she has enlarged a small portion of a larger forest area: “The branches of a tree do not end; there is a sense of continuity beyond the frame. I like to give the viewers a sense of wanting to be transported to the wilderness.” The trees in some of the paintings draw inspiration from miniature painting styles and Jataka Tales as well. 

Proverbial Pathways was not intended as a series, says Priyanka. Individual paintings took shape in the last few years, as she handled responsibilities from being a newlywed to becoming a young mother while pursuing her post-doctoral studies in art: “I submitted my PhD thesis seven months ago. Given the multiple things I was juggling, I did not work on a linear series. My art was spontaneous and unpredictable.”

(Poolamma – the Goddess of Life and Proverbial Pathways will be on view at State Gallery of Art, Hyderabad, from September 18 to 25)



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