Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kerala in its multifarious moods


At the Varsha Chitra exhibition, artists portray the 12 months of the Malayalam calendar

Photos: An acrylic on canvas by Rajan Kadalundi; a watercolour by Seemon Joseph. 
Credit: Mithin Vinod

By Shevlin Sebastian

One day, in October, 2010, Sasi K. Warier, owner of the Indian Art Gallery, Kochi, got an idea: 'Why not form a group of like-minded people?' And thus was born Panthirukulam. There are 12 artists of varying backgrounds: two are cartoonists, one is a Customs Superintendent, while another is a professor of paediatric nursing at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences. “There are also web designers, interior decorators, businessmen, and full-time artists,” says Sasi. Incidentally, the name 'Panthirukulam' is a reference to the legend of a woman having 12 babies all growing up in different backgrounds.

One year ago, Sasi came up with an idea of meeting twice a month where they would do paintings on the 12 months of the Malayalam calendar. “The reasoning behind it was that it would enable us to meet, work, and bond with each other,” says artist Sunil Moothedath. So, in the past one year, they did so, and the result is 'Varsha Chitra', an exhibition in which there are 144 paintings, done by the 12 of them to represent every month.

For Medam (Aries, April-May), Rajan Kadalundi has done an acrylic on canvas which shows a vibrant sun beating down and two women who are holding sheaves of wheat, but are perspiring profusely. One of them is also carrying a water utensil on her hip. “I wanted to indicate that there is a water shortage,” says Rajan. A boy is yelling as he holds up firecrackers in one hand and a sparkler in the other. “During Medam, there are several festivals and I wanted to show the celebrations,” he says. The painting has been done in red to indicate the intensity of the heat. The presence of a lighted lamp suggests the beginning of Vishu, the new year.

Seemon Joseph has adopted a signature image for all the twelve months. Every one is of Nature. And they are all soothing sights: thick black clouds hovering over an expanse of land, wet paddy fields in a shimmering green, and for the month of Meenam (Pisces, March- April), he has painted two ponds bifurcated by a mud path with coconut trees on the fringe. “I decided to do portraits of nature because, in watercolour, it looks the best,” he says.

Senior artist T.N. Raju has shown a black crow sitting on a rock. Next to it is a river with flower petals on it. Against the backdrop of clouds, a lighted door can be seen in the sky. “This is the entrance which leads to the other world, after we die,” says Raju. “That is why it is brightly-lit.” When Raju was a child he was deeply affected by the way the ashes were immersed in the water and flower petals were strewn about and they flowed slowly down the river, indicating the inevitable ebbing of life. The sight of a crow is always auspicious during the month of Karkidakam (Cancer, July- August).

James P.J. has drawn an image of two cows with long horns racing down a slushy field guided by two bare-chested farmers holding stick in their hands. The splashes of water are shown in thin straight lines at the bottom indicating the speed at which the animals are moving. Behind them, are shadowy figures of men and women looking at the action. “During the Medam season, such races take place regularly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” says James. “There is a festival-like mood and prizes are given to the winners.” 

As for Sunil Moothedath, he has done a simple work of several colourful umbrellas placed in a bucket, just outside a shop, to indicate the month of Edavam (Taurus, May-June). Just beside the bucket is shown the legs of a jean-clad man who is standing on the edge of a step. “He has no umbrella, so he is waiting for the rains to stop,” says Sunil. “This work shows that the monsoon season has arrived.”

A.A. Ajithkumar has drawn two grasshoppers sitting on top of each other on a silvery leaf and copulating. There are flowers all around. In the distance there are a hint of clouds and oncoming rain. “Usually the grasshoppers get intimate at night, hence the presence of the dark clouds,” says Ajithkumar. “And a pair is the symbol of the month of Midhunam (Gemini, June- July).”

R. Shyju has done something similar: a woman's face, painted in green, half super-imposed on another, done in brown. “Since Midhunam is Gemini in the English calendar, I wanted to portray the sun sign, which has the twin symbol. So I showed the two faces of a woman.”

The other artists who took part include T.N. Subodh Kumar, Balakrishnan Kadirur, Joby Ravindran, and Manoj Mathasseril.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi) 

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