Mahalakshmi Kannappan
(b. 1981, INDIA)

Mahalakshmi Kannappan (b. 1981) is an emerging Singapore-based artist who recently graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. As a diasporic individual, she often finds herself caught between two very different cultures with distinct beliefs and mindsets. The decisions as to what to adopt and why, are an ongoing struggle she addresses and gives form to through her work. 

For many of her works, the material takes centre stage to discuss and expand on the idea of change. Her practice seeks to identify, amalgamate, and distort different materials as part of a continuous inquiry into their properties. In her words, these are reflections of “how these changes are accepted and accumulated.” She looks into the process of laying material, specifically charcoal, as experimentations on what can and cannot be controlled. The unpredictable responses of the material add to the inexplicable nature of change.


Conceal 01
Charcoal on Canvas, 105 x 80 cm

In her most recent explorations with her signature charcoal medium, Mahalakshmi Kannappan expands the possibilities of the earthy material by heightening stark contrasts, transforming its diverse qualities into poetry. 

Beneath a smooth charcoal surface, three openings reveal a rough, bark-like inner layer subtly bursting through the cracks. What would have otherwise been a strong and solid exterior, evocative of a concrete wall, reveals its more chaotic, fragile core. 

In this new series, Kannappan investigates the myriad meanings of the word ‘conceal’—and in this work, she masterfully shows the ways in which the verb can fail in its duty, which is to cover or hide underlying, more disorderly qualities. 

Nonetheless, in exposing fragments and traces of a metaphorical reality, Kannappan captures the way in which certain textures and truths cannot be suppressed or contained—eventually breaking through vulnerable, superficial exteriors. 

Conceal 02
Charcoal on Canvas, 78 x 63 cm

Draped like a thin, delicate piece of cloth, a smooth, flat layer of charcoal is stacked on top of a raw, ruggedly textured bottom. The juxtaposition between the two surfaces brings a subtle, poignant tension between the calm and the crude, the ordered and the earthy. 

Failing to fully cover the bottom surface, the top layer appears as if it were captured in the midst of being moved or removed—transforming from concealing to revealing what truly lies underneath. Created against the context of today, the work sparks an important conversation on the way our world at present is shifting: how a global pandemic has caused allegorical drapes to open and expose more complex, difficult realities lying beneath rather neat and idyllic surfaces. Like in Conceal 01, the piece communicates the imperfect, ephemeral aspect of the word ‘conceal’.