Bout of Menon-Ji-Tis
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Bout of Menon-Ji-Tis

The upcoming exhibition of veteran artist Anjali Ela Menon has a lot to offer, writes Rewati Rau.

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Every nook and corner of the house smells of art, and as you step into artist Anjolie Ela Menon’s den, it becomes very clear that painting is like oxygen to the members of this house.

So, it doesn’t come as a surprise when Anjolie informs that her upcoming exhibition Menon-Ji-Tis, at Dhoomimal Art Gallery, is a collection of the works of three generations of the Menon family— Anjolie, her son Raja Raja and her granddaughters Indeera, 8 and Madhavi, 11.

There is no time to wonder about the strange title as the veteran artist immediately offers, “this crazy idea was being discussed for the past three years. Uma Ravi Jain of Dhoomimal Gallery had come over to our house and was going through the paintings of the kids, she suddenly said, we have to do it this time.”

Anjolie adds, “My son Raja Raja is an architect and his paintings are, therefore, architecture based.” And as Anjolie finishes explaining the idea, Madhavi and Indeera walk in, oblivious to the fact that their grandmother is being interviewed.

Suddenly, one gets curious to know how did their grandmother enter the world of art? “My first painting was sold when I was in school. Dr Zakir Hussain had bought that painting, titled Sailing Boats ,for Rs 100. My pocket money was Rs 4 in those days and naturally the prize was a huge sum then.”

She adds, “but one of my greatest successes was when I won the Shankar’s painting competition in Modern School. I was given a box of paints and palette from Australia. It was such a great moment for me.” Listening to this conversation, Madhavi decides to contribute her bit too, and says, “My first painting was sold when I had gone with dadi for an art camp in Mumbai.

Dadi was busy painting and some of the uncles and aunties there saw my painting and bought it for Rs 10.” And with this, the drawing book comes out. The paintings are as good as any professional’s and the explanation is also ready. “This is an abstract work, this was drawn at the beach…and so on.” The jargons all fit in very well.

For an artist who has grown to become one of the vital faces of Indian art, Anjolie doesn’t seem to have any cynicism towards the contemporary art scenario.

There are no talks of “nobody does genuine art these days.” Instead she says, “It is good that there is so much money flowing into art and artists are not paupers anymore.” Our chat ends on a very pleasant note as she signs off saying, “I wish to create another major body of work. For rest of the things, like money and fame, we have kind of become like ‘been there, done that.” —The exhibition will be on at Dhoomimal Art Gallery from February 24 to March 8.

First Published: Feb 22, 2007 13:42 IST