Ingenious experiments with colours and technique make Vijayan Kannampilly's works worth a ‘dekko'

To see colours that you don't usually get to see at art exhibitions, go to Nanappa Gallery, Orthic Creative Centre, on Karakkamuri Crossroad. Vijayan Kannampilly, who is at home in two worlds, the word and paint, is showing 28 of his works there till February 6. He keeps to two worlds in the geographical sense too. The veteran journalist from Tripunithura shuttles between Delhi and his home by the river near Kalady, to reconnect with his muse, perhaps, on and off.

Painting similar to poetry

All 28 works don't follow a single set of rules nor do they look like they have come from the same mind and hand. There is no series either, the kind of paintings that fool buyers, wherein the artist paints the same visuals with Tweedledum in one and Tweedledee in the other. While debates never cease on what art is and isn't, Vijayan explains his stand on how art should be viewed, in the invite. While there can be narrative art, a work need not have a story, necessarily. He says painting is similar to poetry. While the poet uses words, the painter uses colours. “Both use them on the basis of certain principles. Art is primary even if there is no story. Drawing, colour, shape, composition, etc., are very important in painting…The meaning of a painting is how it interprets or utilises or goes beyond these principles. Meaning is confined within the length and breadth of a painting. Beyond that what emotions and thoughts it evokes in the viewers' minds—that is the meaning of a painting—only that.” If you view his works with these words in mind, you can enjoy them and not look for telltale references to ‘breaking news' stories or ‘global issues' that haunt the ‘Page 3' society.

The works, in as many sizes as styles, reveal an artist who loves to experiment. The colours are ‘not what you get from tubes', as he puts it, for much more goes into each frame: Technique. His medium is interesting. There is egg tempera, drawings in ink, and also acrylics, the chosen medium of the majority in Kerala because of our climate. Another technique is painting the surface in white acrylic on black surface and scraping off paint to get the desired result. Two works in this genre are displayed here. Works from the early nineties to the present adorn the walls. You will find lines, curves, geometrical shapes and the female forms, all enveloped in colour, with matt finish at times rarely glossy.

Another technique that is a favourite is silverpoint, a method that early artists, centuries ago, used to do, drawing with a silver needle. Leonardo Da Vinci did it. It went out of practice but today, there are many going back to it. The small particles of silver left in the path became the drawing. In this system, there is no pardon for errors, as you cannot erase a line. But there is no sample of this at the show, where the price range varies from Rs 3.5 lakhs to Rs 10,000.

To Vijayan, the theory and history of art is equally important. No art school knowledge all this, but he went to all the right places where his interest took him. Winning prizes at school contests for painting is where it all started. The real stuff came later from books and the right friends. “I have a big library,” he says as an answer.

Vijayan's interest in art goes beyond painting. Restoration is close to his heart and he has done work in that sphere. The first ‘restoration man' of art India, Sukanta Basu, was his neighbour and that how Vijayan got into it. “Conservation is more important than restoration in art,” Vijayan holds. This is relevant when we see around us so many age-old murals ‘restored' brutally by well meaning but ignorant ‘do-gooders'.

Journalism and art took Vijayan to a totally new field in the turn of the century, when he authored ‘The Essential Kerala Cookbook'. “When this elderly lady asked me to do it in Delhi, I could not refuse. My wife, relatives and all my friends came to my rescue. But let me tell you that I leave no room for doubt in the recipes. Even the correct amount of salt is given. Most Malayalis, of the new generation, who do not know the language well enough, can cook Kerala dishes with my book. It has gone to the 17th edition,” he says with a triumphant look on his face, which is otherwise ‘wise-looking'. Food always has this magic, of making people childlike.