Anjolie Ela Menon returns after a gap of five years with a landmark collection of her recent works. Many of these paintings can be deemed to be ‘Vintage Menon’, with the strong use of iconography, layered surfaces and the metaphorical use of motif. What is clearly noticeable in this exhibition is that Menon has come back with greater maturity while retaining the dynamism that has defined her work. Yet again the artist’s unique and inimitable technique and style, especially of her luminous oils, makes her work stand apart from so many of her contemporaries, an amalgam of her innovative experiments with the well known attributes of her inimitable oeuvre. The works in this show include paintings from her ‘Divine Mother’ series.
She makes her larger works on masonite gleam with an inner light by her use of strong earthy hues juxtaposed with soft fleshy tones. The human body takes centre stage yet again and can be seen dominating the canvas with their bold frontality and firm postures. The rich sombre colours and sensual melancholic figures are gently highlighted with accents of brightly hued detail, giving her paintings a sort of sacred preciousness. Anjolie Ela Menon translates this monumentality of her figurative language quite convincingly into her smaller collage works as well. In the smaller works she further explores the idea of ‘pentimento’ by allowing the previous layers of the painting to be seen through the newer layer. By making the process of alteration visible the artist makes a compelling commentary about the constant revision that goes into the process of making any artwork. Her visual references in these works range from kitschy posters and popular embellishments, to key elements from her own early work. Here it can be argued that there could never really be a final artwork but just various stages in the process of creativity; an idea that holds true to Menon who has been constantly reinventing herself over the last five decades.
Padmashree Anjolie Ela Menon is among India’s leading contemporary artists, and has created a name for herself in the domestic as well as international art scene. Her works in oil and mixed media are a part of significant museum, private and corporate collections across the globe and she has done several murals in public spaces. After a brief spell at the JJ School of Art Mumbai and a degree from the Delhi University she won a French government scholarship to the Ecole Des Beaux Arts to study fresco in Paris Menon has held 48 solo exhibitions including retrospectives at the Lalit Kala Akademi and National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai. Her work hangs in major museum and private collections globally. Three books and several films have been made on her life and work. The latest volume entitled Anjolie Ela Menon: Through the Patina covers Menon’s work in public and private collections over 55 working years and a portfolio on her has been published by Lalit Kala Akademi. A book about her work accompanied her solo exhibition at the Asian Art Museum San Francisco which accessioned her seminal work titled Yatra. She was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Letters by the French Government and the Padmashree by the government of India in recognition for her contribution to Indian art. She has now been awarded the Life Time Achievement Award of the Delhi Government for 2013.