Published: 31st March 2021
Why this artist from Kumbakonam is giving a colourful and artistic spin to drab doors
KR Santhana Krishnan has been painting doors for a while now. We find out what inspires him to experiment with this unique canvas
The heritage town of Kumbakonam has always held a special place in KR Santhana Krishnan's life. It was while studying at the Government Art College there that he found his niche. "Every day, while going to college, I would see these colourful doors, half-opened. I would take a peek inside and see little bits and pieces of someone's home. That image of standing at the door of someone's house and looking into their world has always been with me," says the artist. So, before he headed off to pursue his master's in Chennai, Santhana decided to experiment a little with painting doors. He recreated the scene he saw with miniatures, complete with an acrylic painting of the scene inside. "I wanted to find my own style of art, much like great artists before me," recalls Santhana. Several years, multiple shows and accolades later, Santhana has now carved a niche for himself - he's giving a colourful and artistic spin to otherwise drab doors.
A reason why Santhana's door art has found immense patronage, he feels, is the sense of nostalgia it invokes. "When people see the doors, they always come up to me and tell me how they are taken back to their childhood home. The doors and the painting on them help people connect to their roots, I believe," says Santhana. Most of the door art that Santhana creates stems from memories of his childhood. "We have 82 doors in our house and each door has its own story to tell," says Santhana, who now works out of his studio in his hometown of Kumbakonam.
KR Santhana Krishnan with one of his life-size doors
To make it life-like, Santhana doesn't leave any detail to chance. The doors will have the old and new numbers, as it is usually seen across various small towns. And it is not just doors from his hometown that Santhana tries to recreate. An avid traveller, Santhana has also worked on a series called Doors of India. "I painted 22 doors from different parts of the country. Doors in West Bengal are huge, while doors in Rajasthan have elephant murals on either side. I have also worked on doors with Madhubani art for this series," explains Santhana.
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Santhana mostly focuses on three types of door art. "I work with acrylic on canvas and also mixed media wood that gives a three-dimensional effect, for which I use real wood. The top part is a wood carving, while one door is left closed, the other one is opened through which you can see a courtyard or backyard scene of a house. I also create door art that comes with a wall on the side that I add some texture to," says Santhana. And it is not only miniature doors that Santhana is making. He also creates lifesize doors. Of course, it can't be used as an actual door for entry and exit, Santhana jokingly adds.
Pic: KR Santhana Krishnan
With doors adorning homes of various celebrities, including Kamal Hassan, Amitabh Bachchan, Karan Johar and Sachin Tendulkar, Santhana's doors are also featured at Bengaluru International Airport and across the Raintree hotels in Chennai.