The Late Professor Santhanaraj (1932-2009) is considered by many in South India to be the most influential artist of the second wave that followed K.C.S. Panniker and S. Dhanapal out of the Madras College of Arts and Craft. Santhanaraj quickly forged an artistic style of his own dedicated to ascertaining the various complexities of pictorial space through abstract engagement with figurative subject matter.
From student days, Santhanaraj would always approach a canvas with passion, aggression and enthusiasm. Students even now remember how magical colour, line and form would flow from him whatever the emotional stimulus. Crucial to his work from the start was his love of line: its meandering through pictorial space, defining and dividing in its wake, shaping and destroying form, aiding and inhibiting light and colour. His spontaneous free line inspired his colour palette and also archetypes to emerge, especially the buxom female heroine. She would appear from his subconscious through the jagged lines and the spatial areas they displaced along the way. To his last days, Santhanaraj experimented with the concept of abstraction first and, from this process, the emergence of unconscious figuration.
His paintings began with the placement of random pieces of paper on the canvas. These are moved around the pictorial space whilst the canvas itself is intermittently rotated and inspected from all angles. The methodology reveals symmetry with Jackson Pollock, a painter who in his abstraction would circle the canvas on the floor like a panther meeting its prey.