A national artists' camp organised by Lalitakala Akademi turned into creative brainstorming sessions for the 17 participants. Jaya Narayanan Pisharoty

‘Kumbham,' a national painters' camp organised by Lalitakala Akademi, Thrissur, brought together 17 women artists from all over India for a learning and sharing experience. The week-long camp had representatives from traditional and contemporary styles and schools of painting, ranging from practitioners of Pithora and Gond wall paintings to talented alumni of Baroda, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Delhi and Mumbai art schools.

For Gangubai Amaliyar, one of the foremost exponents of Pithora paintings, the camp means a long journey from Bhopal to meet old friends. She cherishes the appreciation and encouragement of the other participants who watch her work as her canvas fills.

Gond paintings

Nankushiya Shyam and her daughter, Japani, produce Gond paintings on paper and canvas. Gond Bhitti Chitra originated as relief work on domestic walls and today though the medium has changed, the subjects have not. An enthused Japani points out how many art college graduates were interested in her work, themes and style of presentation of social mores. She has learnt a lot from them, she says, about mixing colours, but does not want to make alterations in her style or content. “After all, Gond painting will no longer retain its identity, if I make too many changes,” she says.

Santhibai Maravi is a traditional Godhna artist. This was originally body art, where complicated jewellery designs are made on the feet, arms and neck of women. It is now done on canvas too. She is a regular at such national camps and enjoys meeting old friends. As she shows off her own collection of body tattoos, she points out to curious visitors, that while gold and silver can be stolen, Godhna jewellery is a lifetime treasure.

Asma Menon and Razia Tony from Chennai speak about the sense of camaraderie in the camp. They say that there are intense moments of sharing; a space where the arts vacate the arena and life experiences occupy centre-stage. The youngsters are more focussed on their identity as painters and speak in terms of exchange of themes and techniques.

Nimmy Melvin of RLV College Thripunithura aims at capturing everyday scenes on her canvas and clothe “objective reality” in a more personal garb.

Sharing and learning

“All artists are trying to find their own expression,” she says. This Lalitakala Akademi State Award Winner (2009) is aware of a positive surge of energy at the camp. Her canvas tries to capture the scene of innumerable easels and splashes of paint under the colourful shamiana and the dappled sunlight.

Says Neelanjana: “We come out of our studios and learn to exhibit our work without being self conscious. Response and reactions are welcome. The positive comments make us happy but negative ones make us think and grow.”

Vishaka Apte is in concurrence: “We are the sum total of all our experiences, meeting people from different cultures enriches us and in turn, our work.” She feels that her work as an artist does come in the way of interpersonal relations. The artist has a private space only he or she can access. “All of us here understand and share this sentiment.”

Rajalekshmi, an art teacher in Kaladi, feels such events are opportunities of develop one's talent. “We have a nebulous notion of what we want to draw on our canvas. When ideas grow into forms, sometimes we surprise ourselves.”

The participants hope to create 100 works by the end of the week. After the day's work is done, movies are screened and talks are organised. On some nights, they sit around, talk about their homes and their lives, their fears and their aspirations while Santhibai's soulful singing resonates under the starry sky.