Kuriakose Joseph has weathered his disability to bring a riot of colours in his and other people’s lives
Goethe’s famous quote, ‘Personality is everything in art’ comes alive when one sees Kuriakose Joseph’s bright, lively canvases. The onlooker can continue to bask in the assortment of beautifully conceived colours, until he decides to go and strike a conversation with the artist. He would realise, to his utter surprise that conversation is the most difficult part as 55-year old Joseph is speech and hearing impaired. Yet, his stills, portraits and landscapes reflect a fidelity to life resplendent with light, speech and sound.
Joseph has been hearing and speech impaired since the age of four. It was in the School for Deaf at Thiruvalla that Joseph was introduced to the tools of art- pencil, paper and colour. The impact his first teacher had was so deep that it kindled a life-long inclination towards the arts. The matter of being speech and hearing impaired was of little significance from then on.
He got his first job at an advertising agency in Mumbai after passing out from Government College of Fine Arts, Egmore in 1982. In spite of not being formally trained in the arts, his canvases still found a way on the walls of faraway acquaintances. It was only after gaining a Diploma in Commercial Arts that raw hands matured into deliberate, poised instruments of expression. His stroke matured, and so did his responsibilities. Communicating through his son, he says that he shall forever be thankful to his skill that enabled him to get a job as a Creative Artist in a fashionable advertising firm. It was his first job which he not only loved but it loved him back equally. It gave much solidity to his humble background and courage to shoulder the responsibilities of a family he was to soon have.
“Irrespective of his constraints, he worked very hard and always remained happy”, recollects Vivek, his son who is now a commissioned officer in the Indian Navy. He adds, “I think his limitations didn’t really allow him to turn sad or morose. He would always be jovial and, more importantly, wanted to be jovial”.
His canvases are a true reflection of his state of mind. They are resplendent with colour. Bright flowers and charming landscapes are main subjects of his art.. He says through Vivek, “I see my paintings as an extension of me. The way other people feel when they see my work is also the way they are feeling about me because my work and me are inseparable”.
On being enquired about the difficulties he may have faced during the maturing years as an artist, he smiles and shrugs . “My interest in painting was always sincere. So I didn’t find the learning process difficult at all. But it did polish my skills.” His room has a stockpile of books on art. But he points at Van Gogh and Rembrandt with unusual enthusiasm. His eyes light up while describing Raja Ravi Varma’s style. He says that he wants to emulate the Master’s aesthetics in his own portraits.
He shows a few of his future projects-Chinese fishing nets, an eclectic Kathakali dancer and other subjects which are rooted in the cultural ethos of Kerala. “I want to paint happy pictures of people and places. It is my way of describing how I feel about a place and its people.” He mostly paints with oil on canvas but he is at ease with charcoal, crayons and watercolors too.
Vivek says that his father generously parts with his works, gifting them to a relative or a neighbour who wants a wall decorated. “He is very talented but he just hasn’t deciphered how to commercially channelise his works.” Vivek has been trying to convince him to exhibit once for all the years of hard work he has put in.
But Joseph smiles and conveys: “To paint a beautiful picture gives me incomparable happiness. But of exhibiting, I am not so sure.”