Painter and sculptor N. Marishamachar has introduced the world art scene to Kannada readers through his books. The unusual artist will be felicitated on June 19

If at all there is one point about which the three legendry argumentative Indian visual artists K.G. Subramanyan, K.K. Hebbar and R.M. Hadapad would have agreed upon, it would been about the multi-faceted artiste N. Marishamachar.

Among the many roles he has played within visual arts, he wishes to be recognised as a painter, a sculptor, founder member of ‘Samyojitha' artists' initiative. His friends see him as ‘the' person to be connected to, at Kannada Bhavana, without even knowing his designation. In future, he might be actually flocked not by artists but by litterateurs, for the manner in which he has used Kannada language to speak about visual arts.

Interestingly, Mari, as he is popularly known as, has always carried the paradox of being branded as an influential cultural exhibition officer while he thinks that he has been devoid of several artistic opportunities, just because of that posting. However, as artist S.G. Vasudev observes, “Marishamachar is a ‘renaissance personality among us' and 80 percent of government's activities cannot happen without Mari's intervention. The common point of agreement by the three above said legends regarding Mari also reflects upon the qualitative assessment of the multiple roles he has played.

If the history of 20th century institutionalisation of art education in Karnataka is considered, the contribution of Halabhavi (Dharwad), Aa.Na.Su, Hadapad, M.S. Nanjundarao (all at Bangalore) and Andani (Gulbarga) stands out. While all of them worked out of institutions, Mari worked for art education without any institutional support, and published books single-handedly.

Hailing from rural, north Bangalore, Mari studied at Ken School of Arts and at Baroda, later joined the Department of Kannada and Culture (Lalitakala, Shilpakala Academy) where he was destined to remain in various avatars till his retirement, while some of his friends went globe trotting as contemporary artists. Mari travelled much within India, which is reflected in his 25 books on visual arts in Kannada.

In a way, he introduced world art to the Kannada speaking world, mostly through his own publications. Interestingly, this is exactly the number of books published since the last four decades by Karnataka Lalitkala Academy, the official body for visual arts. It is a remarkable attempt, keeping in mind the fact that almost all important works on modern and contemporary Indian art is written in English and Marishamachar's attempts are very valuable interventions.

As Mari himself admits, during his studentship days at Baroda he had seen art history notes being circulated in Gujarati to make it more accessible and that is where he got the idea to bring art writings into Kannada.

Mari intends to get into art fulltime after retirement. It is because of him that a predominantly oral cultural discourse has acquired an academic rigour.

(N. Marishamachar will be felicitated on June 19, 2011, 11 a.m. at Nayana Auditorium. A commemorative volume is being honoured on his 60th birthday and a commemorative volume “Nadedaaduva Vishwakosha” will be released on the occasion.)