Doors open a window onto the world. From the back alleys of Zanzibar — subject of a new book I’m working on — to the blue-tinted ancestral homes of Chefchaouen in Morocco’s Rif Mountains, and in all the inhabited places in-between, doors are both a personal expression of one’s own home and a historical record of local ancestry and culture writ large.
They’re also creative inspiration for a new wave of portrait painters and fine-art photographers, as represented by the emerging South Asian artist K.R. Santhana Krishnan.
Krishnan, from the town of Kumbakonam in India’s Tamil Nadu state, has painted more than 800 doors in just the past 18 years. He takes inspiration from the ancestral homes right outside his doorstep: His grandparents’ house boasted some 82 doors.
As with many fine-art photographers with an eye for detail in the seemingly mundane rituals of day-to-day life, Krishnan sees his painted doors as a way of bringing back memories from a simpler, more earthbound past, when brass, copper and wood were preferred over glass, steel and concrete as building materials.
In a recent profile for The Atlantic’s online magazine Quartz, Krishnan said that even something as simple as a bicycle can catch the artist’s eye, if the artist is willing to look beyond the obvious. Even a selfie with an antique bicycle can be art to the keen eye.
Krishnan’s work, and that of other South Asian artists, is enjoying a new life, thanks to advances in online technology that make it possible to display local artworks to the global village at the click of a button.
After all, Krishnan has said, what says more about who we are as a people than our ancestral homes. And what reflects our ancestral homes more than the door we first have to walk through to see what’s inside. “Only when the everything is in place does the door open.”