Inauguration of Varnam marks a turning point in the city’s art history

On 11.11.11 at 11.11.11, the quaint little bungalow on a silent and leafy street in Chinna Chokkikulam turned into a hub of creative extrapolation. Five young men sparked off an aesthetic journey with the soft launch of the city’s first ever art gallery – Varnam. S. Rengarajan, R. Siva, M.G. Ramanan, C. Sendhil and S. Janakiraman pooled their resources to get the best artistic talents from Southern Tamil Nadu and in the process stamped an important turn in Madurai’s art scene.

On display on the opening day was a melange of paintings, sculptures and installations done by these artists and a dozen others from the region. Each of the works brilliantly recorded the dialogue between the artist, the medium and society. While many of the canvasses highlighted the city’s iconic figurines, Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar, interpreted in different forms, every piece of art was otherwise an appreciation of the artist’s soul in life and beyond.

The footfall of visitors on day one without much publicity and their individual critical enquiries with the artists was heartening for the local art connoisseurs, who have otherwise been worried about the city’s weakening links with art. The attendance, interest and curiosity of viewers aligned encouragingly with the spirit of voyage and aesthetic perception of the artists involved in the venture.

Art curators and head of Team Artists Siva and Ramanan, who have conducted workshops under the name “Canvass” in the past, handpicked the works of budding artists in order to promote them. Says Ramanan, “They put their heart and soul into each of their strokes, but more often than not remain out of public gaze owing to lack of exposure and opportunities.”

Siva adds, “In this art gallery, we want to provide every level of experience to the viewer by showcasing works of both young and emerging talents and professionals. The only way to take the visual and material explorations forward is without inhibiting experimentation and we want to give a chance to the best of low-profile artists.”

The idea of bringing art shows, fairs and festivals and interactive platforms, discussions and workshops under one roof and also promoting contemporary art through paintings, sculptures and a lounge for interiors was pioneered by Rengarajan, along with Sendhil and Janakiraman.

Explains Rengarajan, who had launched a creative space designing studio under the same name “Varnam” in the city three years ago, “The art scene has changed today and entered its ‘maturity phase’. There is a need to curate well-conceptualised and unique shows that integrate diverse art forms and evoke a spontaneous connection among the artists themselves and between them and the wider audience and prospective buyers. The dialogue has to be in continuum and that is why we came up with this idea of going beyond paintings on the wall to designing the interior space as well with out-of-the-box installations and sculptures.”

Some piquant but futuristic installations including the ‘peeing table’, reclining human-shaped seats with stone finish and large door handles, or the flower-shaped wash basin threw open for the first time an entirely new world of art forms to people here. Even the paintings had a striking depth and glow of colours and formation and placement of images. Artists who are exhibited here include Arasan, Satheesan, Manusingh, M. Sendil Saravana Kumar, Karunakaran, P. Raja, M. Anbu, P. Rathnam, and Mani Kandasamy. Each of the canvasses exhibited a force in their stunning visual impact and bold underlying vision.

In the days to come, the Varnam Art Gallery will also run a professional library within its premises. Promises Rengarajan, “It will be well stocked with all art-related books and CDs. As a social cause, we plan to offer all our activities like conducting workshops and competitions for children, new learners and even professionals free of cost. Different-level winners of various competitions at the gallery will be rewarded twin-fold -- their works will be mounted at our gallery in future for different shows and would also be sent to other art festivals across the country.”

What the vibrant Varnam team promises is high quality work emerging from their gallery that will be affordable, hold good value for the collectors and also provide an adequate recognition and reward for the artists’ talent.

The Varnam Art Gallery and Creative Studio is located at 23 Sarojini Street, Chinna Chokkikulam. Call 9789480859, 8754010234, 9442883216, 9487133715, 8754040234 for further queries.