Six painters. Six facets of Chennai. Six canvases painted to celebrate our tenth anniversary

Thota Tharrani: T. Nagar (Watercolour)

The past has a certain appeal to me. Yesteryear images of the city — old buildings, hand-drawn rickshaws, tree-lined roads and slow-paced life —have left an indelible impression on my mind. I chose this old building in T. Nagar for its sheer beauty and old-world charm. To me, a portion of it looked like a Pagoda. There were many such buildings with interesting dimensions and details in the city. But not any more. Only a few are left, and I’m sure even they are on their way out. Many of them follow indigenous styles of architecture. Over the years, the city has changed so much. But memories linger...

Born in 1949, Thota Tharrani is one of the most creative people of our times. A winner of several State and National awards for his magnificent set designs for films, this Padmashri recipient is also a renowned painter with several solo and group shows to his credit. During his over four-decade association with art, he has not stuck to one medium, but proved his versatility with many — pencil, chalk, colour pencil, crayon and pastel to acrylic and water colour on canvas, paper, board, blackboard, sunmica and ceramic.

A.V. Ilango: Chennai Traffic (Acrylic on canvas)

After a stressful morning drive, I halt for a soothing cup of tea, and begin to sketch the tangles of traffic. So far, the human form has been my subject of study. But with the Chennai series, bicycles, autos, cycle rickshaws, buses and tankers are the centre of interest. This city may rank high in comparison to other metros, as far as the traffic jams go. It represents the individual and collective spirit of the people locked in battle or involved in a crisis.

Born in 1950, A.V. Ilango has been living and working in Chennai since 1979. A self-taught artist, he’s famous for his colourful, vivid depictions of the rural scenes of his youth, women and the folk arts, and more recently, works on chaotic scenes of urban India. A teacher of art for over 25 years, he launched Ilango’s Artspace in 2003, a studio for nurturing young artistic talent. He has received national and international acclaim, exhibiting for over three decades all over the world.

Achuthan Kudallur: Untitled (Acrylic on canvas)

I’ve chosen to paint the Marina beach, because it’s a beautiful spot, the most beautiful along the East Coast. On my first visit to Madras, I was so thrilled to see the beach. In the painting you see Madras University. I focussed on it because it has produced a lot of brilliant men. As I painted, I used an old black and white photograph for reference, to make sure I got the details right. The rest of the scene I could imagine and recreate. There are the boats of the fishermen, because I feel the beach belongs to them. And in the background there are ships.

This was a very interesting project because it required a style that’s so different from my present work.

Born in 1945, Achuthan Kudallur currently lives and works in Thiruvanmiyur. He has participated in shows and art camps across the world and has won the National Award and the Tamil Nadu Lalit kala Akademi Award among others. He has participated in prestigious exhibitions, such as Sothebys India sale in London, and his abstracts are in several collections such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, Air India and Glenberra Musuem, Japan.

Asma Menon: Madras Vignettes (Mixed media on paper)

The work is an assemblage of the landscape of our city. The High Court stands tall, symbolising an era gone by. It is a reminder that many such buildings have been torn down, and in their place, unimaginative cubes and rectangles called malls have been constructed. The art work then shows a portion of beach and a boat. The famed length of our beach is known worldwide — do our city children know of it? Then we have a strip of water and on its bank, huts which have satellite dishes and antennas on their roofs. We are a city of traditions which we should be proud of. Someone once asked me, ‘Are Chennai-ites conservative?’ and I said, ‘No, we are people with our traditions, please do not confuse the word ‘conservative’ with ‘tradition’.’

Born in 1961, Asma Menon lives and works in Chennai. One of the up-and-coming female artists in the city, she is known for her brilliantly coloured abstracts that incorporate animal, human and divine figures. Asma was awarded the Women Achievers Award, 2001, and the Vijay Rattan Award for her contribution as an artist to society in 2005, and has shown at numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally.

Jacob Jebaraj: Zero Four Four (Acrylic on metallic-based paper)

This painting explores the changes in the city, particularly the changes in its ecology. In the old days, children grew up close to Nature, but today few of those tree-covered natural spots remain. I grew up near the Madras Christian College, in an area with lots of trees, deer, and butterflies, and as an artist, I’ve always drawn inspiration from Nature. In my painting, I have tried to visualise this transformation, capturing what we’re losing in the midst of all the so-called economic growth, and showing some of the chaos and turmoil that has been part of the process in abstract form.

Born in 1978, Jacob Jebaraj lives and works at the Cholamandal Artists’ Village. An artist and sculptor, he is one the city’s rising young talents. This contemporary multimedia artist is known for his experimental works using video installations and mixed media such as recyclable materials. He was awarded the SLBA award from Lyons, France in 2008 and the H.K. Kejriwal Young Artist Award in 2006.

Manohar Devadoss: Buckingham Canal Country Raft (Watercolour ink and watercolour on paper)

The Buckingham Canal, a 262-mile long water body which hugs the east coast, has a special place in my heart - my very first oil painting was a scene of the canal, and that's how I became a professional artist! In this painting, I portray a boat in an angular view for the first time, its sail billowing in the wind as it approaches Madras.

Manohar Devadoss lives in Santhome. A writer-artist, famous for his intricate line drawings of buildings in Chennai and Madurai, he has two books to his credit, “The Greenwell Years”, about his childhood days in Madurai, and “Poem to Courage”, a biographical book on his personal challenges.