Selected works by T. Venkanna

T. Venkanna
Dream In Dream


Oil on canvas

153 x 259 cm (Diptych)

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.

T. Venkanna
Two Moon


Oil on canvas

213 x 153 cm

Two Moon is based on an original work by Rousseau entitled The Sleeping Gypsy 1897. In his second canvas from the series Venkanna has taken the original scene from Rousseau’s painting and duplicated it as a repetition of the motifs within the painting itself. With very deliberate alterations to his canvas, Venkanna’ssleeping gypsy is both alive and dead, as he paints in a skeleton where Rousseau had painted a resting figure in multi-coloured dress. Venkanna’s figure brims with unrequited and unfulfilled lust. The black moon painted below is a sinister twin of Rousseau’s paler one, and symbolizes the tragedy of the figure’s former life. Although his body has turned skeletal in death, his penis, so charged with desire, stays alive with lust and remains fleshly, erect and blackened. The painting also resembles post-war American painting styles due to the additional red arrows on the surface of the canvas, crudely labeling the edge of the work.



The predominant subject in my works has been sexual imagination, which also questions and engages with the stereotypical ways in which sexuality is understood and defined. The sexual behavior of human beings is habituated by the societal norms and conditions. I believe it is due to this, that the sexual fantasy/ imagination gains importance in a human being's life and an individual achieves extreme pleasure out of this simple act of day-dreaming, wherein he/she escapes from the harsh realities of this world/society via an undisturbed and uninterrupted flight of imagination. This kind of subject needs to take into consideration varied cultural practices as well as relation between human beings in a given time-space continuum. In addition, I believe contemplating on sexual fantasies and re-presenting them 'visually' would endow alternatives to violence and would make world peaceful.

My continuous persistence with this subject has furthermore stimulated my interest to explore 'image - making' in different kind of mediums. My work integrates aspects of the personal and the social using material/medium as per the subject's requirement. This assemblage of personal and social worlds has been the most important linguistic device which allows me to concentrate upon the whole process of image-building. The socio-political realities experienced by me in addition to the commonplace occurrences witnessed by me are translated into visual language. The intimate relationship between medium and visual form has been my engagement and via the process of image-building I explore this relationship.

In this endeavor of mine, I also have been 're-presenting' certain imageries/ motifs taken from artists of yester years [like Mondrian, Henry Rousseau etc.] as well as from specific forms of traditional art. The political and social contexts underlying these works were quite different. I re-present these imageries according to my idea, in the process critically evaluating the norms and terms existing within contemporary society.


Jan 15 2011, by Yip Wai Yee, Straits Times

THE Indian artist who caused a stir at the inaugural art fair at the Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre by stripping naked has stopped his attention-getting act.
The artist, Mr T. Venkanna, who sat on a bench in the nude and took pictures with visitors, was not in the booth on Friday.
Some newspapers had gone to town with the Hyderabad artist's act at Art Stage Singapore, questioning whether it could be considered art. A lawyer was quoted as saying the show could be against the law as it is an offence to appear nude in public. The art fair, which opened to the public on Thursday, is considered a public event.
The exposure proved to be too much for some people. On Friday morning, Gallery Maskara's owner, Mr Abhay Maskara, told The Straits Times over the phone that the gallery was asked to stop the performance. He did not say who advised him to do so.
He said: 'It is always a bit disheartening when works of art are not seen as art. We did not set out to create any controversy.'
Mr Venkanna had sat behind a black curtain and a sign was posted in front of the booth, warning viewers of the content and restricting viewers to those who are 21 years and older.