An exhibition of paintings by Pushpakaran K.K. is on till March 7

Kerosene lamps feature in most of his works evoking a sense of nostalgia amongst the viewers. Says the artist Pushpakaran K.K.: “I come from a small town in Thrissur where there was no electricity till I was about nine years old or so. I remember my mother lighting these lamps. Now, no one uses such lamps. The lamps represent my nostalgia and sense of loss of an era gone by.”

Sense of loss

And one can sense that in the very first painting in red that greets customers to his exhibition of painting at Kerala Lalitakala Akademi, Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan. An old steam engine is juxtaposed against a bullock cart. Is the painting on how the mode of transportation has moved from the bullock cart to the steam engine or on how both are forsaken? And if you look at the bottom right of the canvas, you will notice something that resembles hieroglyphics. “It is to symbolise the loss of the Indus Valley Civilisation.”

An arresting frame with the lamp as a theme has sepia-tinted tones. “This is an image from my childhood, which has remained etched in my mind. The church featured in the painting is an old church in my village back home,” says Pushpakaran, a post graduate in Fine Arts from RLV College of Music and Fine Arts, Thripunithura. The image also hints at religious harmony as the church shares space with a temple and what looks like a mosque in a distance.

A sense of nostalgia is also captured in a self portrait of the artist amidst greenery. “During one of my visits back home I noticed the greenery around me and was enchanted.” And in the painting one sees the artist dressed in a shirt and dhoti posing as if for a photograph with blooms around him. It almost seems as if he is freezing the image for posterity.

A series of paintings in brush and ink is a step into the world of magical realism. In these paintings a bear-like creature with a sloth's hand and feet appears. The first of this series shows two of these creatures. While one is resting, the other is shown picking fruits of a tree while an angel flies above. One can't help wondering if the frame portrays Adam and Eve. And if it is the Biblical duo, one wonders if the various modes of transportation dotting the canvas are a sign that the artist approves of Eve's act of plucking the fruits from the Tree of Knowledge or lamenting how fast the world has moved from the days of bullock cart rides.

The next two in the series has one pondering on the effects of global warming and rising oceans. Both these canvases have the creature underwater and one is reminded of Kevin Reynolds' Waterworld where global warming causes mutation in men as the creature is shown as being one with underwater beings.

One of Pushpakaran's paintings seems to address the effects of pollution. This painting has buildings (a palace, a factory, a church) all linked together. A cactus plant grows in front and tubes from another cactus like plant seeps underground almost as if it were poisoning the earth with the venom from above.