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Anjolie Ela Menon

Throughout her career as a painter, Anjolie Ela Menon has regularly re-envisioned her role as an artist. Menon's early canvases exhibited the varied influences of van Gogh, the Expressionists, Modigliani, Amrita Sher-Gil, and M. F. Husain. Mainly portraits, these paintings, according to the artist, “were dominated by flat areas of thick bright colour, with sharp outlines that were painted 'with the vigour and brashness of extreme youth'.” Menon admits that her work has undergone tremendous changes with every phase of her life and that as she has grown older, the narcissism of the early years has been transformed into nostalgia for the past.

Menon took up art while still in school, and, by the time she was fifteen, had already sold a couple of paintings. Finding the J.J. School of Art academically stifling, in 1959, at the age of twenty, Menon departed India to study art in Europe on a scholarship from the French Government. There, she was influenced by her exposure to the techniques of medieval Christian artists. While at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Art in Paris, she began to experiment with a muted palette of translucent colours, which she created by the repeated application of oil paint in thin glazes. Painting on hardboard, Menon enhanced the finely textured surface of her paintings by burnishing the finished work with a soft dry brush, creating a glow reminiscent of medieval icons. Menon utilized the characteristics of early Christian art – including the frontal perspective, the averted head, and the slight body elongation – but took the female nude as a frequent subject. The result is a dynamic relationship of the erotic and the melancholy. Menon has developed this iconography of distance and loss in her later works through her thematic depiction of black crows, empty chairs, windows, and hidden figures.