The speaking tree (from 'Corollary mythologies' series) 1999
Surendran Nair’s paintings can be, in turn, mischievous, ironic and quizzical as they inject a gentle surrealism into prevailing notions of reality. As if recycling traditions from a cultural encyclopaedia, Nair meticulously constructs a web of images – mythic, modern, classical and mundane – growing out of the body of cosmic man. Trainees at the school of necromancing 1 & 2 and The speaking tree are from Nair’s ‘Corollary mythologies’ series, a body of work in which the artist weaves together visual strands from both Indian and Western art and mythology to create new and idiosyncratic icons. Like other works in the series, these paintings begin with direct references to ancient Indian iconography before opening up to the visual ephemera of contemporary popular culture. By intentionally leaving the works open to interpretation from multiple viewpoints, Nair nurtures a dialogue on crucial issues for the future in India, such as belonging and dissent, the community and the individual.
If at all I were to conceptualise the last few years of my work in a single phrase, it seems that 'Corollary Mythologies' would be appropriate.
In a way Corollary Mythologies are about belonging and dissent. In that sense I imagine it to have political undertones, however subtle, which is informed of History, mythology, real and imaginary events. Art history, notions of tradition and identity and its relationship with modernity, of language, sexuality, politics, religious and other faiths etc. Without emphasising any of these in particular, I address these issues simultaneously.
Sometimes rendered sentimentally, literally, cryptically or otherwise metaphorically oblique, they are both detached and reflective and at times often with a mischievous gaze, making innocent jokes, and at other times being ironical and quizzical too.
Corollary Mythologies have in a way an allegorical impulse that have converging and multiple situations of meaning which co-exist.