Artist Subash Kumar's exhibition was a unique one: he did pen drawings against the backdrop of newspapers
Photos by Ratheesh Sundaram
By Shevlin Sebastian
In February, 2012, Subash Kumar had gone to Gangtok, Sikkim, to attend a 10-day teacher's camp, organised by the National Council of Educational Research and Training. “There were teachers from all over India,” says Subash, a teacher fromMundakkottukurussi, near Shorannur, who is also an artist. “That was when I understood the diversity of India. We could not understand each other’s language or speech. On a whim, at different places, I would buy newspapers of the language of that place. It became a hobby.”
Thereafter, whenever friends informed him about their upcoming trips to different parts of India, he would ask them to bring back the local newspapers. Soon, he had a large collection. And it was then that he got an idea. He would do drawings on the newspapers, but with reference to the place where the newspaper was published. So, for the Malayalam newspaper, he drew a tree which has jutting-out axes at the bottom. “This is to suggest the deforestation that is taking place in Kerala,” says Subash.
On the Bengali newspaper, Subash drew a figure of a Baul singer as well as an image of Swami Vivekananda. On a Gujarat page he did an image of Mahatma Gandhi, since he was born in Porbandar. “I also added some Gujarati art forms,” he says. Meanwhile, in the Telugu version, he drew an image of the Charminar monument at Hyderabad. As for Tamil Nadu, he focused on the Jallikattu or the bullock cart race, while, in Urdu, he drew a person riding on a camel, with an Arabic lamp at the bottom.
“All the drawings were done with a coloured ink pen,” says Subash. “It was difficult because ink tends to spread on paper.”
After he did the drawings, on 16 newspapers, he placed it in glass frames, and held an exhibition called 'Papiro' at the Durbar Hall art gallery recently.
Many visitors expressed their appreciation of the works. And one of them, CA Vijayachandra, a retired superintendent of the Kerala Water Authority, felt compelled enough to buy one, a Radha-Krishna drawing on a newspaper from Rajasthan. “I thought the idea was unique,” he says. “So I decided to buy it.”
Chandra, a frequent visitor to art shows, says that most works – acrylic on canvas, as well as watercolours – are beyond the buying power of the middle classes. “So I was thankful that Subash quoted a price I could afford to pay,” says Chandra.
Because Chandra is a stroke victim, Subash also accompanied the former with the art work to his house in Maradu. “Subash is a simple person and I appreciated his kindness,” says Chandra.
Among the other visitors was celebrity novelist KR Meera. “She complimented me on the uniqueness of the idea,” says Subash. “She also enquired about how I managed to use ink on a newspaper.”
Asked whether there is a rising awareness of art in Kochi, Subash says, “I believe there are more upper-class people in the city. And they are not very interested in art. When I do exhibitions in Kozhikode and other parts of north Kerala, there is a stronger emotional reaction. I am sure the Kochi Bienalle has raised awareness of art, but my belief is that most of the visitors to the festival were from outside Kochi.”
Meanwhile, Subash, who has a Bachelor of Fine arts degree from the Karnataka Open University, at Mysore, is planning to hold exhibitions on his paper drawings in Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)