Six reputed artists of South India create works of art as they draw inspiration from scenic Azhimala.

Six reputed artists. One scenic locale: Azhimala. The result: nine works of art, each so different in style, presentation, colours and themes.

“That is because we create a small world of ours in our works. Our language is the same but our expressions are different. We see with our hearts and feel with our eyes,” says A.V. Ilango. His work, a composition of brilliant greens, blues and reds, reflects the colours around him. He explains that although his works usually do not see much of green, he had to use it to complement the vivid greenery around this picture-perfect location near Kovalam, where he is participating in an artists' camp.

Palettes filled with paints, jars of colours and partially worked canvasses greet visitors to Dreamz Homestay, near Azhimala Shiva temple, Chowara. The sun-lit interiors of the house have been taken over by llango, G. Subramanian, Jacob Jebaraj, BO. Shailesh, K.R. Santhana Krishnan and Suresh Muthukulam. Each has found a comfortable niche to work on their creations.

Organised by city-based art gallery ARTsmart, the camp has focussed on six South Indian artists who are rooted in the Indian idiom of expressions. Joining the veterans are Upasna Pandey, Roshni Rao and Devi Seetharam, under graduate students of Fine Arts at LASALLE College of Arts in Singapore.

While Ilango is busy giving finishing touches to his work, in the adjacent room Jacob is taking a break after finishing two works. His canvasses are a pleasing mosaic of shades of greys, whites and black highlighted by a touch of pink, yellow and green. “I was inspired by the waves breaking on the mossy rocks,” says Jacob.

On the Buddha

“One is called ‘Buddha meditating' and the other is ‘Dreams,'” he adds. And suddenly the composition of colours reveals a picture of the Buddha meditating. “From mayhem and turmoil, one finds peace in the inner self,” says Jacob. Similarly, his other work, (inspired by the name of the homestay) shows Buddha's mother, Maya, dreaming of a white elephant.

Sharing Jacob's space in the house is his Cholamandalam neighbour Shailesh, yet his works, media and expressions are worlds apart from Jacob's nuanced colours. Shailesh's works in watercolour (one of which is drying in the sun) has been inspired by flowers and the colours around him. One is a robust work in red, green, brown and yellow while another is in shades of delicate pinks and whites with a hint of yellow that resembles petals. Sure enough the artist says he was inspired by a flower in the garden. “But I work in several media and I do video installations as well. My choice of media depends on what is it that I want to express,” he says.

Mural artist Suresh prefers to work in a room of his own; a room with a splendid view of the surroundings. “I adapt the mural style of painting and use of colours to paint contemporary themes,” says the artist who is outlining a figure on his canvas in a muted brown. “Continuing my series called ‘Mizhikkal,' I am portraying the earth as a woman… supporting life in the oceans and in the soil,” explains Suresh, an artist who has given the traditional mural art of Kerala a contemporary address.

“I hail from a place near the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. So I use paint those images in the mural style. Called Kuttanad cameos, the collection was a big hit in Delhi,” adds Suresh.

Similarly veteran artist G. Subramaniam tells you that his colourful collages are visual expressions of his childhood memories in his home town near a coastal village in Tamil Nadu. “My father was a theatre artiste and those images of colourful dramatic figures still find their way into my works,” he says showing his collages of Lord Krishana and village girls.

Tearing pages of magazines, he pastes them on to paper and the white paper comes alive with the image of a girl with a parrot. Jacob, Santhana Krishnan and the students watch as the pieces of paper get imbued with life. Santhana Krishnan, who has a fetish for thresholds and doors, is waiting for his painting of a doorway to dry while work on another doorway is in the process of being created. “See I have included the number of this homestay on the door in my painting,” he says. Looking at the textured wall he has painted, he says he is wondering whether to paint ‘Stick no bills' plea in Malayalam.

A little later Ilango drops in to watch Subramaniam work and then the two start talking about yoga and their works.

Brainstorming

The artists chorus that such workshops help them watch a work of art being created. “We usually see only the end product. But now I can watch and see how the artists work, their method, technique ….it is like a brainstorming session. We discuss and occasionally critique each others works,” says Jacob.

Deepa Seetharam, owner and curator of the three-year-old ARTsmart – a Gallery, says she plans to organise a touring exhibition of South Indian artists to several countries with the help of Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

The camp concludes with an exhibition of their works at Dreamz Homestay on June 19. The exhibition then moves to the ARTsmart gallery in Elenkath Complex, (opposite SL Theatres, Overbridge junction).