A recent tribute to artist Chicko relived a life immersed in art, music and travel

A small crowd gathered at the Nanappa Art Gallery to pay tribute to Chicko, one of the eccentric talents who lived on the fringes of the art world, never seeking validation yet loved by all close to him. Organised by the Orthic Creative Centre in collaboration with Kerala Gharana, the preview function shed some light on the man while his works looked on from the gallery walls. “Chicko was the son of art critic Ramji, and was known for his surrealist works. He loved to travel, played the guitar and was a fan of cowboy movies,” says artist T. Kaladharan, owner of the gallery, as he reminisces about Chicko.

The veil of mystery surrounding the artist was parted a little as speeches were delivered by art luminaries describing the life and times of Chicko. Artist Rajan Krishnan called him one of the last romantic artists of the generation. He also went on to speak about issues plaguing the art field. “There is a definite need for permanent art spaces. While authors are immortalised in libraries, spaces where the best artists’ works are preserved are rare,” he said.

In a nod to Chicko’s musical skill, Kerala Gharana also organised a performance by renowned classical guitar player Kamala Shankar, who is in the State till January 9 and will perform in different districts including Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur and Kollam. She briefly described her instrument, a modified Hawaiian guitar she calls the ‘Shankar guitar’ and went on to perform an instrumental in Rag Yaman, which she described as a “Hindustani version of Rag Kalyani from classical Carnatic music”. She was also quite appreciative of Chicko’s works, “To be honest I don’t get a lot of time to follow art closely, but these are great,” she said candidly.

The group gathered at the gallery listened in rapt attention to the anecdotes from Chicko’s interesting life. Kaladharan’s parting remarks provide some insight into the mind of the artist. “I remember once when I gave him a roll of film, but he was unable to procure a camera to use it with. Undeterred, he used to take out the film roll and point it at anything he deemed interesting, in a display of nonchalance and humour. That was the kind of man he was.”