G. Azhikode hopes to add currency to mural paintings

Mural artist G. Azhikode’s home studio at Njandoorkonam, near Sreekaryam, is neat and tidy. An easel is tucked in a corner and while some of his various works dot the wall, others are stacked on a divan. Azhikode points to a terracotta vase he has painted with mural motifs. Fridge magnets, bamboo pen holders, paper weights, wall hangings, gift boxes…turn canvases too for this artist who is known for his efforts to preserve the mural art through contemporary means.

A disciple of mural artist Mammiyur Krishnankutty Nair, Azhikode trained under him for 10 years and also served as a guest lecturer at Guruvayoor Mural Art Painting Institute, which was started by Mammiyur in 1989. It was upon his guru’s death that Azhikode started pursuing the field in earnest.

It helps that his wife, Shymala Kumari, and his son, Biju, are also mural artists. Initially, the family concentrated on traditional mural works. “We did the mural at Coconut Beach Resort, Kovalam, South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur...”

The idea of painting mural styled paintings on bamboo containers came to him when a woman from Germany saw a doodle in paint he did on a piece of bamboo and insisted on him putting a price on it. He then started buying treated pieces of bamboo from Wayanad and started painting mural motifs on them.

“The adaptations we have introduced to the art form seem to have clicked with the market, be it mural-styled paintings on lamp shades, paper weights...,” says Azhikode. Apart from traditional motifs, his works include images from a host of contemporary subjects including festivals and inland boat races.

The artist has written several books on painting and drawing and is a member of Kerala Lalithakala Akademi. So, what next? “Mural works are usually found in temples and religious shrines; they depict scenes from Hindu mythology. By enlarging the framework to include a variety of themes and by experimenting with different mediums, hopefully more artists will be drawn to this art form. I plan to hold classes in mural inspired paintings; my way of keeping the art form alive,” says Azhikode.