From his studio in Baroda, Venkanna remakes two works of French painter Henri Rousseau, famed for his fantastical illustrations of jungle scenes and botanical gardens. Rousseau was chastised and then celebrated for his imaginative escapism and early primitive style in Paris. The political and social context of works Venkanna references are quite different from when they were made. He re-interprets these imageries and in the process critically evaluates the norms existing within contemporary society.
Dream in Dream is appropriated from Rousseau’s 1910 painting titled The Dream. The historical significance of this work is not lost on Venkanna as he intentionally renders it as a post-modern image with idiosyncratic undertones. In this work, Venkanna replaces the woman from Rousseau’s original with a nude self-portrait. In the second panel Rousseau’s verdant jungle becomes animated in Venkanna’s hands. Turned on its side, the thin canvas takes the same subject but satirises it using cartoons to the point where the panel becomes garish.