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Robynne Limoges - London Comments - The 3 Nine Arts

"Looking for love" ©Vasantha Yogananthan

Imagine being told a myth, a parable, an epic verse, a legend as a young boy by his Sri Lankan father, and then as an adult, embarking on a photographic journey through India on a route that mirrors his childhood memory. Vasantha Yogananthan, a French photographer, FOAM Talent winner for 2017, and the recipient of multiple international awards and exhibitions, is doing just that. The results thus far and the images in this, his first UK solo exhibition, are imaginings of the highest order.

I refer to his images 'thus far' because his dedication to the complexities of his source involves a multiple-year physical journey from north to south India, to meet people for whom the nuances within the classic Indian Hindu legend, The Ramayana, still resonate and the interpretations vary as widely as the men and women and children whom he encounters. His journey will eventually result in a seven-book transcription of the major philosophical, moral, mythological, emotional and sociological paradoxes within The Ramayana.

How does one trace the journey of a myth by undertaking a challenging physical journey encumbered by large and medium format cameras? How does one interweave one person's relationship with myth against the interpretation of another? How does the male experience of The Ramayana differ from the woman's experience? And how does one create a body of work that is conceptual at its core but also has legitimate, powerful elements of the documentary, the mystical, the formal portrait and the purely abstract? This is the challenge Yogananthan has put before himself. 

"Lovebird" ©Vasantha Yogananthan

As one looks into his images, it is impossible not to also ask how is it that this exceptional photographer, Yasantha Yogananthan, has been able to capture the quality of slowly moving, dust-warmed air that envelopes nearly all his subjects in a way that holds us still, captured by a story many of us do not even know? He is able to achieve this through an incredibly delicate eye and a personality that exudes reverence for the landscape and people, for the details and the aura of the places he sets himself down.

For those particularly interested in the how (a seemingly constant preoccupation of viewers of photography), Yogananthan utilises natural light only, enhancing the emotion inherent to it by juxtaposing monochrome and colour photographs, hand-painted in the colours and hues of memory by a local Indian master in the art of hand tinting. He has added illustration and text to these visual records resulting in imaginings and whispered poetry. His work may be realistic in 'style' (thus some might say, documentary) but it is so very quiet in its palette, the expressions of his subjects so inscrutable, that the results are also highly emotional abstractions. The contemporary seems to slide into the vista of that which is remembered with great ease.

This is an exhibition that possesses an overarching elegance and soft- but sure-footedness. I find A Myth of Two Souls (2013-2019) to be exciting, intriguing and simply very, very beautiful. It is on display in the Print Sales Gallery of The Photographers Gallery (16-18 Ramillies Street, London) until 13 January 2019. One can only hope that when Yogananthan's odyssey is completed, that the main gallery will be given over to his exceptional visión.

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SEBASTIÁN LISTE Fotoperiodista, Fotógrafo Documen...

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