Opening doors to intriguing views, images, nostalgia and lifestyles - those are artist K.R. Santhana Krishnan's forte. From 1993 onwards his evocative but simple and nuanced images of more than 800 doors have opened the way to fame, succe ss and critical acclaim for this 31-year-old Chennai-based artist.
"My fascination for doors goes back to my childhood and student days in Kumbakonam. Growing up in the traditional Brahmin agraharams and spending years there made me ponder on the different worlds that existed behind each door. The way the light fell on the threshold, use of colours, materials used for the doors and walls... each has a tale to narrate of the house, its owners and their lives. Even the exterior surfaces of the doors have myriad tales to narrate," explains the artist.
He take us into his unique world of thresholds. While some of them are acrylics on canvas, some are painted on wooden models of doors (complete with locks) that faithfully reflect the entrances found in houses in South India. A few of his works take us to the inner spaces of houses in Jaipur and Bikaner in Rajasthan. Each of his works reflects the wide-eyed wonder and curiosity of the artist as he gives us glimpses of the life that lie behind the doors. Attention to detail makes the works a colourful documentation of changing lifestyles in India also.
Most of the paintings show half-open doors that lead viewers to the scenes that are framed by the doors. But for crows, none of his paintings or works has people in it. Nonetheless, his paintings bustle with life and hint at the busy hands that shape the life inside and outside the houses. Tulsi tharas in inner courtyards, milk cans, kerosene lamps, wooden boxes, clothes drying ...faint white numbers and letters on the doors again give us clues about the inhabitants of those residences.
"Some are corporation numbers, ward numbers, electricity board connection numbers... For instance, P 26 indicates that polio drops were given to a child in the house under the immunisation programme of the government," says Santhana Krishnan.
It is also a visual record of the changes wrought by globalisation on local industry, aesthetics and lifestyles.
He points out that in Kumbakonam, houses in the agraharams used to have ornate wooden doors with coloured glass on top. As time went by the glass was replaced by heavily worked grills that were common in the Sixties and Seventies. Now the designs are more geometrical.
"Moreover, depending on the financial background of the inhabitants, the doors underwent many changes. Heavy wooden doors, blackened with lamp soot and bearing the imprints of vermillion smeared fingers were modernised with new-age single-panel doors in plywood and so on; glass came to be used extensively...On, the other hand if the owner of the hand fell on bad days, then some of the walls and doors were painted over with advertisements," says Santhana Krishnan.
All these observations have been replicated in his works both on canvas and on wooden models of doors. Peeling walls, advertisements of popular eats and soft drinks, STD booths and so on evoke a sense of déjÀ vu in spectators.
"It was the works of Bengali artist Sanjay Bhattacharya who inspired me to enter the world of interiors as viewed through a door," says Santhana Krishnan. Taking off on that premise, the artist opened multiple layers of inner and outer spaces to create a space of views. As the artist's wish is to explore more interiors in India, look like this is his ‘open Sesame' to creativity.