T.K. Muralidharan’s paintings are a take on the dreariness of urban life

‘Machinoscapes’ is an artist’s documentation of his life in the city. For the last 18 years, he has been living in Mumbai and the city, T.K. Muralidharan says, has left an indelible impression on him. Fifty works capture the many faces of life in the metropolis, though not in a plainly realistic way. Images of complicated machines, webs of wires and metallic junkyards convey the overall stuffiness that is characteristic of big cities.

Muralidharan has not had formal training in art, but has been running his own textile hand-painting unit in Mumbai. “So, I consider myself fairly experienced in the use of colours,” he says. The acrylic-on-canvas works are the result of three-years’ toil. A poet, too, Muralidharan writes when he isn’t painting. He has brought out an anthology titled Nethravathi. “I have always thought it was necessary to express one’s thoughts and emotions. In poetry, words are limiting. In painting, however, it is a free reign. It is liberating,” he adds. He is comfortable handling any medium, he says, but has stuck to the lasting appeal of acrylic for this show.

A mix of works

His third solo show, Muralidharan wanted a mix of big and small works. The largest at the show is a 6ft/9ft work, which was done as part of a previous series. The smaller works speak volumes about his craftsmanship, as some of them involve the use of ink on thin plastic film. He has conducted two solo shows in Mumbai, which drew great response. “I was unsure of my abilities in the beginning as I had not learnt it technically. But interactions with artists who have already made a name in the industry helped me refine my art,” he says. Muralidharan considers artist Bose Krishnamachari, who has made Mumbai his home, his mentor.

While a major share of the works focus on machines and equipment, he has devoted equal space to buildings. Abandoned buildings are a common sight in urban areas. Many of them are either waiting to be pulled down to make space for newer, more modern buildings; and some have been left to disuse after natural calamities. “Any bustling city can come to this lifeless situation. Every city has this fear looming large over it,” Muralidharan says.

Though originally from Angadipuram in Kerala, none of his works is based on the State. “Kerala is nothing but one large, unbroken city now,” he says, but chose to meditate on Mumbai.

“Art is reflective of the times we live in. As an artist, all I am doing is showing people what I see around me.” Though he hasn’t planned his next show, Muralidharan wants to do gargantuan works—“those that will make one feel small standing in front of them”.

The show is on till November 28 at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery.