Cholamandal Artists’ Village recently played host to an unusual art mela as part of the ongoing Art Chennai. Akila Kannadasan & Anusha Parthasarathy on the artist-art lover meet

Thirty-three senior artists, more than 300 paintings and colour-soaked conversations — Art Mela (by Artworld) at Cholamandal Artists’ Village, the first of its kind in the city, had art lovers and artists mingling in the afternoon sun, over drinks, vadais and samosas. The congregation was part of the ongoing festival, Art Chennai. And what’s more anyone attending the mela could pick up fresh works by masters such as C. Douglas, M. Senathipathi, P. Gopinath, Viswanadhan and G. Raman for just Rs. 500!

The paint on the brush of the artist who painted the big-eyed dancer had not dried yet, but the visitors were privileged to purchase it straight off the drawing board. By the end of the hour, more than 300 pieces of art were sold. The mela was aimed at taking artists closer to people. “Art Mela is the first of its kind in this city,” said Biswajit Banerjee of Artworld. “The idea is to take the art out of the gallery and initiate a dialogue between artists and art lovers.”

“This is a happy get-together,” said artist Ramachandran. “I really like this approach to art.” For Rm. Palaniappan, the regional secretary of Lalit Kala Akademi, “when the artists and their admirers connect in spirit it leads to a perfect ambience for creativity.” Meanwhile G. Raman was seen assuring one of his admirers who could not buy his work, as they were all sold out, to paint one for her by the end of the day. “To get 30 artists under one roof is difficult. So it feels wonderful,” he exclaimed.

Through most of the morning, the visitors at Art Mela peered over the shoulders of the artists as they painted. And it was not just the big names who drew in the crowds, budding artists such as Inbavalli and Mokshitha too came in for appreciation. According to artist Muralidharan, “Such initiatives expose a new set of people to art apart from the regular gallery goers. Nothing can equal a live show. We want to connect with people. And this is the best way to do it.”

Said Asma Menon, adding pink acrylic to her canvas, “It’s similar to an atelier and the concept of a walk-in mela is fascinating. Unlike a gallery, anyone can walk in here without feeling intimidated. We have even had children from the nearby slums come and watch us work.” As the day progressed, the artists slowly began to move to the lunch hall after a morning of hard work. And you could see visitors holding their newly-bought paintings close to their chests. As you left, the smell of fresh paint and colourful strokes and conversations lingered.