They are hauntingly beautiful, painfully elegant, and deeply felt.
They are truly out of this world, and the story they tell draws you in and holds you in thrall. Needing little imagination on your part, they take you on a journey as exciting and adventuresome as that of the protagonist in the panels. For now they exist only online and hopefully will be published in book form someday.
The comic art panels of Kinnari evolve methodically, slowly, (produced at a leisurely pace) just in time for the brave new globalized world. They are loaded with explanations, personal annotations and background information. Just for a moment, let’s take the text under advisement and enjoy only the images. And what images they are!
Welcome to the art of Meenakshi Krishnamoorthy, here.
It’s a case of East Meets (and renews) East.
The Art of Meenakshi Krishnamoorthy
The drawings of Kinnari reveal a world that is at once alive and forbidding. A self-taught artist, as claimed by her own bio, MK strains hard to convey a sense of the exotic, the mysterious, the romantic and the adventurous – all at the same time. Interestingly, she succeeds!
On the surface level the art form is quite alien, Manga, or Japanese action cartoon. But look closer, and you see very true Indian imagery. Look deeper, and you will see echoes of an old familiar illustrated story of your childhood, Chandamama perhaps. or some other such “Indian comics” you might know. This is the wonderful bomma katha world created (in progress) at Kinnari.
It is tempting to downplay this wonderful world of ‘labor of love drawings’ as old wine in new bottles or old dolls dressed anew. That would be a cruel lack of understanding, a total inability to enjoy the riches of this unique art form, and above all it would be a great disservice to this brand new, budding Indian genius.
What we have here is a new vision, a new voice in the true literary sense. A whole new oeuvre of two-dimensional plastic art that is a shining example of bold new visualization. Like other joys of the Internet, this one I stumbled upon by sheer accident, while drifting along the surf flotsam if you will, via a post at Blogbharthi, itself a find and topic for a later post.
The theme here is a standard archetype – journey and self-discovery – concerning two children: brother Neel and little sister Manu. It takes place a long long time ago, in a far away place called Avantipuram.
The story is told in classic comic book style. Multiple images populate a given panel and tell of a moment of action. The panel may have four to seven flowing or free standing smaller images drawn from different perspectives. Words of dialog or description move the narrative along nicely.
Extreme closeups, extreme angles of action drawings, exploding word bubbles packed with sound effects and brooding, dark landscapes in ‘establishment shot’ type views.All these can be found and are a delight to study for detail.
The word bubbles take full advantage of onomatopoeic expression. “Pthoo” screams one bubble as the bad guy sneers, “Dishummm” a punch is thrown, “Twaak” lands a blow. Watch kids fight, or play act with sound effects, you get the same result. Only here the drawings are exquisitely fine and true.
At first glance they look like figures from foreign comics, but look closely, you will see ancient Indian masters’ in influence. Neel’s hair lock is variously, finely tucked or flying; the bad guy’s moustache curves like crescents or sickles out from under his nose. His teeth are gapped, as they must be (only the virtuous men may have close, pearly teeth.) All characters have religious, if rather pagan, symbols or marks that harken back to Puranic times.
The facial expressions are acute and sublime, the facial features are stylized and fine. Eye brows are sensuous as well as supercilious. The good and the bad shown in stark contrast, yet using the same line and form, an amazing feat. The evil cabal, save for the darker hue, and a scowling expression, they too look finely drawn with odd effeminate musculature. But that’s comic art, Manga style.
This work is not complete, not by a long shot. The author is evolving, struggling, but the voice is already forming and growing. The character of Manu is a challenge. How does a female artist see herself in her creations? How much to make the little girl Manu? And how much someone else? Much more is to come from this artist, there is much to look forward to. We wait.
The Internet is the ultimate empowerment tool. It’s truly the “frugal chariot” described by poet Emily Dickinson in transporting the human soul and give avenue for self-expression and creativity. Meenakshi’s work is the perfect example of what happens when the internet and dormant creativity collide. The results are all over, so to speak. A full range of raw-to-refined, of work in progress, of talent being winnowed. Given time, nurture and devotion, it will explode in full bloom. We wish for Kinnari the greatest boon of all – the capacity for dedication and the desire to persevere, to progress, to prevail and to produce.
May the Force be with you Meenakshi!