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Anjolie Ela Menon

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1940, Burnpur, West Bengal, India
Lives and works in Mumbai

Anjolie Ela Menon paints ordinary, everyday objects to suggest emotions, moods and personal links to people creating haunting, evocative images. She is a colourist, using bright, intense colour palette and gradations of tone and texture very effectively in her works. She is known for her Window series which demonstrates the artist’s use of junk to make art. Wood and masonite are her preferred surfaces to paint on.



Atelier Fresque, Ecole Nationale des Beaux Art, Paris

Bachelors in Literature, Delhi University, Delhi


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The humdrum and the pedestrian in everyday life appears in her paintings

Anjolie Ela Menon uses everyday prosaic objects like chairs and charpoys to suggest personal link with people, emotions, moods and locations. Portraits, Malabar landscape, rags and grimes of poverty, images of melancholic reverie and ordinary objects populate the artist’s canvas. Empty chairs and charpoys speak of an adolescent’s loss of her mother and her father in later years. Distant skies, balloons and kites symbolise that which is lost forever. Nudes also form an important theme in her oeuvre gathering momentum after Anjolie’s marriage in 1961 and her ensuing pregnancy. Through repeated associations, objects in her work acquire a poetic quality to them and in turn become a symbol thus acquiring a powerful visual vocabulary.

Anjolie Ela Menon, Unquiet Landscape, oil on masonite

Both image and technique in her work has undergone a long and purposeful journey

In her early student days, Anjolie Ela Menon’s works were dominated by flat areas of thick bright colour with sharp outlines owing a certain allegiance with the expressionists. It was in Paris when she met the Mexican painter Francesco Toledo that the subtle gradation and textured layering typical of her work began to emerge. Her travel through Europe gave her exposure to early Christian and medieval art characterised by the frontal iconic, averted head and the slight body elongation--features that are often incorporated In Anjolie Ela’s work with religious as well as secular subjects. The artist’s itinerant lifestyle had prompted her to work on hardboard instead of canvases which adds yet another quality of the “classical” period where most works were painted on walls or wood panels.

Anjolie Ela Menon, Acolyte, oil on masonite, 12.5 x 8"

There is a warm intimacy between woman, animal and nature in the artist's work

Anjolie Ela Menon’s use of animal in her work suggests an emotional dependence on a domesticated animal. The sleek black crow entered Anjolie’s paintings during the 1970’s which was probably the only symbol of nature in her life in Bombay. Referring to the singular crow that used to come to her balcony everyday, this bird became an intrinsic motif in her artistic frames and remained a ubiquitous one. Similarly, the use of lizards, dogs and goats have the same kind of benign quality to them. The use of the lizard is often used to suggest a voyeur’s gaze peeping from unseen corners.

Anjolie Ela Menon, Beach Party, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24”

The Window series, started in late 1970's, forms an important part of her oeuvre

During the early stages, the windows were painted and later actual windows were salvaged from junk shops to bring home. This became a recurring idiom in her works. Windows formed a grid where images could be used as a collage in non-realistic manner with wooden frames. The window would often become the barrier behind which much of the action and emotion takes place: respite and diversion, nostalgia and pain or the hardness and vulnerability of prostitute as seen in the Kamatipura series. The suggestion of the window as voyeuristic is seen through the device of the veiled woman (Mothers, 1988), the sideward glance at untouched innocence (The Acolyte, 1994). Curtains are used to hide the gaze, structure the background and the foreground, evoke nostalgia and also a great deal of patterns, colours and design into the work.

Anjolie Ela Menon, Shabnam, 1996, oil on masonite, 24 x 32"

Texture and colours are central to her works

Through the use of texture and delicate layers of colours like transparent brown, olive green, Indian yellow or Prussian blue that her works acquire a certain mystery or brooding quality. Anjolie Ela Menon’s images seem to be wrapped in mists of translucency. The bright opaque paints get altered through ambivalence of transparent glazes which covers the painting and provides the surface effects. An overall bright colour palette signifies the ordinariness of the present, stripped of mystery and creative imagination. However, recently, the artist has moved away from the deeply intense palette to experiment with lighter, brighter shades and has begun to use computer aided images for her works.

Anjolie Ela Menon, The Long wait, 2012, oil on masonite, 48 x 24"