Puducherry artist Nadees Prabou’s works capture the colours, moments and people unique to our country

Nadees Prabou is un-understandably nervous. “This is my first one-man show in Chennai,” says the water-colour painter from Puducherry. His family spotted his talent in school, and hoped his drawing skills would come in handy for a professional course. His persuasive skills prevailed and he enrolled for a Fine Arts degree. “My father wanted me to follow his footsteps to be a lab technician, I had to fight to spend my time ‘just drawing’!”

His brush eventually won the argument. In his third year of college, his water colours got exhibited at the Alliance Française. Two of these were picked up by Daniel Coffman, director at French Lycée. “He told me to use colours to depict Indian climate, and not let one or two colours dominate the canvas.” It was a whole new perspective.

Digital canvas

He came out of college determined to be a water-colour artist. A couple of Frenchmen came calling, left with his pictures under their arms. His paintings became regulars in galleries, and when digital art beckoned, he joined an animation company as a concept artist, and used Maya software to make graphics for the TV serial Little Krishna. “I learned to create a concept, do layout sketches, follow story lines.” And infused his physical art with the concept idea. After 14 years of animation jobs in Bengaluru, Pune and Chennai, “I’m a full-time artist now.”

He plays with dodgy light and shadows, and his effort at humanising art makes it interesting. Light falls on the surfaces, the sun comes through fabric shades. The deft brush strokes and earthy colours are based on meticulous optical observation. “We follow European painters, use Prussian blue, crimson, burnt sienna, sap green. In my early years I did the same. Now I use raw amber, muted ochre and black, I get the muddy India, the heat and dust. A lot of the painting is accidental, it may not come out the way I had imagined.”

What you see is what you’ll likely experience walking down a rain-drenched street. The Puducherry market, replete with red cloth hanging above the shops, cycle-rickshaws waiting for custom, flags, wires, and the swirling waters below. French architecture in a small lane, done in damaged-brush technique. The surroundings of a Kumbakonam temple in heavy summer. Dusk at Madurai, “dirty” colours splashed carefully to create the heat-tone and texture. Thiruvanmiyur share auto, a temple in the Marghazhi morning sunshine with long shadows, a Bengaluru street made distinct by a different set of colours. And the people — the nine-yard-sari-clad mami, a woman carrying a pot or the man hitching up his veshti to avoid water… Through all this he nurtures a couple of wishes — a water-colour society and a book on his favourite medium. For details, visit nadeeswatercolours.blogspot.com.

(The show is on at Vinnyasa Premier Art Galery today)