S.S.Kavitha returns mesmerized from Kannahi Krishnan's gallery of Tanjore art

After staring at her flamboyant paintings and the serene expressions of the deities in each frame that captures rich mingling of mythology and jewel-like craftsmanship – I find it difficult to wean myself off such a picturesque feast.

A golden glow is guaranteed in these frames that unfailingly ooze out a divine ambience. Whether it is the gleaming Krishna, Vinayaka or Jesus Christ, breathtaking scenery with a stunning backdrop of a candle-lit village, the Holy Book Quran --- all are so enticingly framed that you invariably want to meet the person behind these works.

And there she emerges in all feminine grace with a long plait of grey hair, cool pools as eyes and a warm smile radiant enough to light up the room. She has created more than few hundreds of mega-size divine paintings, majority of which now adorn temples far and wide. She prepared a five feet and four inches Tanjore painting of Lord Venkatachalapathy for the former Minister of State for Railways, Digvijay Singh, who was mesmerised by her work of art. She has produced more than 100 art teachers, who are successfully conducting classes in Madurai and neighbouring districts. She is the darling mother-cum-art teacher for many as she is always flanked by hordes of students of different age groups.

And silently for the past one and a half-decade, she has been pursuing her love.

“I am into a field which is truly my joy. It is not a platitude. Drawing is the answer to my inner calling,” declares Kannahi Krishnan, as she opens up unassumingly for a chat.

With her words bordering more on ethics and creativity, she asserts her belief in the old order stating that she self-prepares the basic necessary items for painting. She goes to bed late but is an early riser because the peaceful mornings kindle her creative nerves to produce unique and perfect pieces of art.

“It is laborious and intricate but it is interesting and satisfying. What else you need in life?,” she asks, adding that every work of art must command the desired price. “People trust me and I work hard for their trust.”

Accidental entry

Though her life revolves around art, her entry to the art world is purely accidental. One and a half-decade ago, a compelled admission into an art class in doll making organised by Rotary Inner Wheel Club changed her course of interest and put her on to a colourful track.

This Home Science Graduate discovered her hands to be very expressive and agreed to be dictated by them. Ever since, Kannahi Krishnan has been moving at her pace enjoying thoroughly every moment of art-life even though she always remained a wife and a mother first.

A perfectionist, Kannahi Krishnan, took to doll making and glass painting, oil to acrylic like fish to water but pitched her interest in Tanjore painting. Now she works for paintings that are priced between Rs.300 to Rs.1,00,000 depending on the size and amount of work involved.

Tanjore paintings are more divine. You delve deep and appreciate its true beauty. It is aesthetic and appeals to your senses, encapsulating spirituality. The figures seem to be looking at you evoking a divine feeling. To be able to produce such a work of art is really challenging,” she says. “Artists need regular reinventing,” she justifies her use of green colour in Tanjore paintings which predominantly deal with blue and red amidst golden foils. But, of course, she does so only with the consent of the buyers.

When some of the buyers mesmerized by her work requested her to teach the art form, Kannahi Krishnan discovered the teacher in her.

Enthusiastically, when she started taking classes, students of all age groups -- from teenagers to grandmothers – began knocking on her doors.

She says some people came for learning various designs while a few confined themselves to learning about a particular God. Gradually, Kannahi organized her classes on fixed days and time.

“Teaching gave me a sense of achievement. When my students complete a work of art with perfection my happiness knows no bounds,” she says gleaming with pride.

“Drawing is more like writing. How you make your writing more legible? Does it remain the same from kindergarten to graduation? With practice, you master the art of writing. Similarly, one can learn the art of drawing and make it an easy sail. Dedication and confidence are the two pillars of success,” she says.

Her clientele is from far and wide. She sells her paintings at a lower price to women who want to earn extra money.

“They have their own margin which I never ask them to divulge,” she notes and adds that hundreds of women regularly buy and sell her paintings. Besides, her regular customers hail from countries like USA and Malaysia who usually buy her paintings to donate it to the temples.

One of her students made a painting of the 10 Sikh Gurus on a panel in Tanjore style and handed over to Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee in 2005. Sometime she also renovates or touches up photographs of old paintings from temples. She has also embellished her art with real precious stone in a work ordered by a jewellery shop.

When we request Kannahi for a photo shoot, she shows up, her face bespeaking tranquillity much like her paintings.