Three artists from Kerala bring to life the chronicles of Krishna and the spirit of Onam through mural work

The history of mural paintings in Kerala dates back to several centuries. The temple walls of Kerala adorn mural artworks and frescos that depict the valiant tales of mythological gods like Krishna, Rama and Shiva. Though the technique of murals essentially means art work on walls in tandem with the architecture of the structure, artist Prince Thonnakkal from Trivandrum along with his students Ragini Krishnan, Sangeetha Prince and Vijayalakshmi Murugan have put the mural paintings on a canvas. Vibrant in colours and detailed in technique, the paintings have a life of their own.

In their vivid imagery, the paintings have captured the playful and mischievous side of Krishna and everything that is associated with the festival of Onam. Whether it is the jovial flirting between Krishna and the gopikas, or the numerous dragon flies is symbolic of spreading the goodness of Onam among the flowers, the paintings are ornamental in style and vivid in description.

The colours used on the temple mural works were vegetable dye, but retaining the hues and texture of the mural techniques, the artists have used acrylic colours on canvas. “Given the intricate style and vivacious colours we wanted to paint only the vibrant stories of Krishna’s life,” explains Ragini Krishnan who has been learning mural for the past three years. She came across her teacher’s works in an exhibition and ever since then she has been learning art from Prince Thonnakkal who has over 20 years of teaching and painting experience. She next wants to depict the entire of story of Shakuntala by Kalidasa on canvas.

“In the ancient days, women were not allowed to do the mural painting on the temple walls. To extend the art form to women, I started teaching them,” says Prince. Explaining the history of mural on canvas, the artist says that since certain communities were barred from entering the temples, the artists started doing mural works on canvas.

The exhibition held in association with Shrishti Art Gallery is open till September 10, at the Salar Jung Museum from 10 a.m. to 5p.m.