I was recently invited to the launch of a photography exhibition called Temple of Delight featuring works by S. Magendran at Sutra Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. The dance photography exhibition consists of nineteen photographs taken from Amorous Delight, an Odissi dance production directed by renowned Malaysian dancer and choreographer Datuk Ramli Ibrahim with costume design by Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran and lighting design by Sivarajah Natarajan.
For those who are not familiar with Datuk Ramli Ibrahim and Sutra Foundation…
Datuk Ramli Ibrahim needs no introduction in Malaysia as he is popularly known for cultivating the art of Indian classical dance here particularly Odissi dance for the past three decades. The 64-year old founded Sutra Dance Theatre in the 1980s, and launched Sutra Foundation in 2007 to develop more interest in traditional dance and the performing arts in our Malaysian cultural scene. In 2012, Datuk Ramli received a prestigious award from the former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee – the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award – for his contributions to Odissi. The award is recognised as the highest national honour conferred on performing artists, gurus and scholars of the performing arts, and Datuk Ramli was the first Malaysian recipient of this award.
As part of Datuk Ramli’s strong commitment to all art forms, Sutra Foundation has a venue, Sutra Gallery, that houses a collection of artwork associated with Sutra Dance Theatre. The artwork collection ranges from paintings, drawings and photographs, all of which are exhibited in the gallery as a platform for the visual artists who have had interacted with Sutra Dance performers in the Sutra Academy dance residency program.
For the month of August, Sutra Gallery is exhibiting Temple of Delight, an artistic documentation of choreography, costumes and lighting in captivating photographs by young S. Magendran who worked behind the lens of the Odissi dance production Amorous Delight inspired by Amarushataka, the 9th century Sanskrit couplets on love.
In all of the nineteen photographs, 30-year old Magendran brilliantly captured crucial moments of the dance – facial expressions and body movements of the dancers expressing delight when enraptured in love or angst and pain when love is tumultuous. It is certainly not easy to bring movements to life in still photographs, hence Magendran takes time to study his subjects, the artistic direction of the dance production, and lighting without which he would not be able to capture the mood, soul and essence of the dance.
On top of that, this young photographer also takes into account of the dancers’ intricate costumes which were designed by Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran, our iconic Malaysian fashion designer who has designed for the who’s who of Malaysia’s elite and royal families and Western celebrities such as Estelle, Lady Gaga, Tori Amos. By encapsulating the aesthetic elements of the costumes and the emotional depth (rasa) of the dancers, Magendran’s photography brought out the obvious passion and love that the entire production has for the dance form.
Prior to entering Sutra Gallery for the exhibition that night, Sutra Dancers performed one of the dances from Amorous Delight production which gave us a taste of what the actual performance was. From the short performance and later on when I saw Magendran’s photographs, I appreciated how the production inspired him and the dancers became his muse to capture beautiful moments in dance photography – to go beyond the mechanical focus.
The Temple of Delight photography exhibition continues until 31 August 2017 at Sutra Gallery, No. 12, Persiaran Titiwangsa 3, Kuala Lumpur.
For more information, please contact Sutra Gallery at 03-4021 1092.