History, landscape, people and even abstract images of Malabar came alive at the five-day camp, Malabar Heritage, held at the Hill Palace

Verandahs surround the building of the Centre for Heritage Studies, on the precincts of the Hill Palace, Tripunithura. On these verandahs, and inside a few rooms, 20 artists give expression to their feelings about many things purely Malabari: For that is the subject around which they wield their brushes.

“It can be history, landscape, people or even abstracts,” explains Shaji Punchathu, chairman of the Delhi-based Kalarang, which is co-organising the art camp and exhibition in association with Malabar Institute for Research and Development, Vadakara, and Centre for Heritage Studies. He is also one of the artists at the camp.

Each artist has done two works. Majestic trees with their adventitious roots forming a natural curtain of sorts around the heavy trunk and the thick foliage all around is a perfect setting for artists to let their imagination run wild, at the five-day camp, which ended on Wednesday.

Pazhassi Raja does not look like Mammooty, in the collective local imagination, says Suresh Koothuparamba as he shows you his work, a royal figure with a sword amidst a mélange of bright hues. There are pepper vines, plain thick vines of Surendran Karthikeyan, nature, a passive Buddha of Punchath and Asanthan's mythical figures in foggy texture.

Sculptor-painters

Satheesan and Sherin, the only couple artists at the camp, are sculptors who also paint. Their little daughter Athena is an inspiration for the camp artists. There is Theyyam and Bekal Fort by moonlight. V. B. Venu has woven the new and the old in his works, the Raj days and the present Malabar scenes overlapping in his own style. T. Kaladharan's all-orange and all-blue works with black drawings of his characteristic women tell tales and myths that abound in the area.

Joy Mathew gives his artistic interpretation of a woman carrying a basket of coconuts, a usual scene in Malabar. Dinesh R. Shenoy's architectural drawing of a heritage building and R. Babu's work depicting religious harmony set in historic locales are in stark contrast with M. Ramachandran's (Deputy Secretary, Lalithakala Akademy, Delhi) work, just a huge palm with the nails acting as a canvas for five different scenes.

Another work shows a mobile phone outline with the menu icons. Only, the ‘touch' phone icons have erotic nuances, ‘as it is ‘touch' of a different kind, says Ramachandran.

Ajit is a doctor who enjoys being a painter. A fierce frame in deep blues and reds with cannons and the deep blue sea, fire and an uneasy night try to link history and the present. Sumesh Kambaloor's expanse of landscapes with Theyyams and the ordinary man who dons the role, and along with Hariharan's pastels work of a lone church among the barren green hills, signifying the entry of people from outside the tribal areas into the hills, tell the social story of Malabar.

There are two more women at the camp. Yamini, whose works portray a clear feminine bend and Chitra, whose paintings proclaim she has a sound sculpture background. She just got the first rank for MFA at the RLV College. Narendran Reghunath's yellow hued abstract and Sanam's take on Malabar complete the picture.

Own series

Some of the artists have continued with their own series instead of painting something connected with Malabar. V. Naquash is one, whose frame has scores of red little men spewing out of huge receptacles. The limited period of five days (the camp started on March 4) was an obstacle to some, though the venue was a painter's dream.

They were exhibited at the Hill Palace Museum. A few will be taken to the Arakkal Museum at Kannur. The others will be taken to Kalarang. K. N. Shaji was the organisor of the camp, while K.K.N.Kurup, Director General, Centre for Heritage Studies was actively involved in the venture.