Born in 1977, K.R. Santhana Krishnan is an internationally acclaimed artist, known for his vibrant and intriguing door paintings. Santhana grew up in Edappadi in the Salem district of Tamil Nadu, and completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Government College of Fine Arts in Kumbakonam. He then did his Masters in Fine Arts from the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai.
Cycling to college every day in Kumbakonam, Santhana used to pass through streets lined with old, ancestral houses. He keenly observed the verandas buzzing with people, tranquil tulsi tharas and backyards, and the light illuminating different parts of the houses, all leaving a lasting impression on the young artist. The doors of every single house would always be left open, offering a peek into the lives of those inside. That’s where Santhana got his life-long inspiration, and in the last 20 years, he has created more than 900 door paintings.
Through his art, Santhana narrates myriad stories of rural life, evoking memories of simpler times in India. The doors draw you in with their teasing glimpses of intimate spaces. The peeling walls, pasted advertisements, rusting locks and smeared saffron marks add to their quaint allure. Santhana’s paintings often feature the trappings of another time - vessels made of brass and copper, aluminium milk cans, bicycles, vaccination marking numbers on the exterior wall, and crows perched on the porch. Santhana believes the life that he portrays in his paintings is disappearing fast, surviving only in memory as urbanisation takes over our towns and villages.
Though the subject in his paintings has remained constant, Santhana Krishnan experiments with various mediums to create his artworks, painting on canvas as well as wood, often combining the two in his art. He has also gone from using watercolours and oil, to now using bright acrylic colours. Locks and knockers collected from various parts of India, murals, and embroidered cloth also feature in his mixed media paintings. While Santhana’s doors are quintessentially South Indian, the vibrant colours that he uses to paint them take inspiration from all over India, especially Rajasthan.
K.R. Santhana Krishnan’s art is part of many important collections including those of Sachin Tendulkar, Shashi Tharoor, Karan Johar, Amitabh Bachchan, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Mani Ratnam and Kamal Hassan. He has held more than 12 solo shows in India, and has participated in several group exhibitions in Singapore, Germany, Paris, Australia, USA, Hong Kong, Mauritius, UAE, Taiwan, Vietnam and China in the past 20 years.
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