"Eternal Companion No. 77" by P. Gnana, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 2008, Assini-Thomson Collection
Our artist of the week: P. Gnana
The subject of this week's artist blog here at Addicted Art Gallery could be described shorthand as "the painter of cows", and art lovers across Singapore would still know exactly who you were referring to. That man is P. Gnana, whose vibrant, metaphorical depictions of the bovine animal - derived from watching his mother feed them during his childhood in Neyveli in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu - are vessels for the emotion that he sees as fundamental to his art.
"You see, the cows are metaphors for emotions", he once remarked. "They have the liberty to transcend their form and play various roles such as observer and companion. Emotion has the same attribute; changing according to circumstance, without a permanent place to reside in."
No less important to Gnana than the motif of the cow, are the bright, earthy colours in which the animals are truly brought to life, the artist elaborating that, "I rejoice in manipulating the versatility of colours. Colour is the basic source of energy for a work of art - whether it is flamboyant or not. And I see no reason why the metaphorical cows in my art need to be deprived of an association with such dynamic energy.”
But who really is P. Gnana?
The aforementioned basic formula has powered a career that has seen Gnana become one of Singapore's most distinguished and respected painters and sculptors, with a following of collectors from across Asia and Europe.
Some of Gnana's works are created with a combination of fabric collage and layers of oil paint, while he has also attracted admiration for his sculptures that consist of reclaimed materials like car and bike parts and other scrap materials, together with solid bronze and antique vessels.
But where does Gnana come from, and what brought him to this point? The foundation of his current practice was provided by a 2002 scholarship to the world-renowned Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore, where he received his formal training in painting. He has since gone on to produce and exhibit work across Asia and the Middle East, including Singapore, Malaysia, India and Dubai. He has featured in numerous group and solo shows and even has works in the collections of the President of the Republic of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum and the National Heritage Board.
An enduring and fascinating artistic philosophy
For all of his career achievements as an artist, P. Gnana has also long been highly active in spreading the good word about art to his peers. Back in 1999, for example, he established an arts institution in South India called Kalashram, through which he inspired and educated over 200 adult students on the wonders and intricacies of art. He also remains an active member of the Sculpture Society in Singapore and the Singapore Art Society.
All the while, the artist has sustained his strong exhibiting profile. His eighth solo show, The Eternal Cow: Sculptures and Paintings by P. Gnana, was held at the Singapore Philatelic Museum in 2009, while another solo exhibition of his sculptural installations and paintings, Parallel Play: A Travelling Collection of Art by P. Gnana, was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 and in New Delhi the following year. 2011 was also the year in which he made his New York debut.
But what exactly inspires P. Gnana to continue his relentless creation and innovation, so long after making his name in the Asian art world? For an insight into that, one is perhaps best advised to pay attention to his words. From his declaration that, "experimentation is my cup of tea, especially when it's done with a concept in mind," to his musings that, "even with my signature portrayals of the cow, the underlying theme has usually been love in its many forms and possibilities,” - it's clear from what he says that Gnana still sees great scope for further exploration in his art.
Art that truly embraces life
Whether he is creating his acclaimed mixed media sculptures with their compelling juxtapositions of bronze, wood, steel and other materials retrieved directly from the scrap heap, or instead applying paint to flat surface in a semi-figurative style akin to that seen in his early artistic career, it seems that Gnana will always be gaining fresh inspiration from at least somewhere.
After all, his work isn't just about cows - it's about life. As the artist has said himself, "Whatever I see and notice in my daily life while passing villages or other places, I don't imitate what I see, but I bring it to my heart and give it a very stylist way of my own identity." Certainly, here at Addicted Art Gallery, we can't wait to see where such journeys take this wonderful artist next.
"Nostalgia No. 1" by P. Gnana, oil on canvas, 2009, Assini-Thomson Collection