An exhibition by 12 artists on the 12 months of the Malayalam calendar

Seasons may have become crazy and unpredictable, elusive even to the keenest weatherman. But for Panthirukulam, a group of 12 artists from various parts of Kerala, they are an unending source of creative energy. The wealth of imagery each season lends to the imagination is immense, their works suggest. The exhibition, ‘Varshachitra’, held recently at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery, was a tribute to the seasons.

Interpreting the seasons

The sun-blanched fields of Medam, the lush, wet Edavam, the slow and steady rains of Midhunam and Karkidakam, the flowers and golden sunshine of Chingam, the mellow beauty of Kanni, the dazzling lightning of Thulam, the pleasant chills of Dhanu and Vrishchikam, the mists of Makaram, the heat that envelops Kumbham, and finally, the dry, desolate Meenam. Each artist has interpreted each Malayalam month in his unique style. “Though we have been conducting group exhibitions, our styles are very different. We work with different media and even our artistic influences are hugely varied,” says Manoj Mathasseril, one of the artists of Panthirukulam.

The treatment of the subject is also varied. Sasi Warrier uses his special talents in mural painting to bring out the speciality of each month, while Seemon Joseph depends on his love-affair with water colour to describe the eternal beauty of Kerala’s landscapes. Manoj uses combinations of the knife and brush to create a textured treat for the eyes. Medam (summer) for him is a happy yellow acrylic canvas with streaks of brown. It is for him the season of ‘poorams’, a clutch of brightly hued ‘pooram’ parasols complete the effect.

Karkidakam has the crow as a recurring element. Most artists seem to have drawn from the ‘bali tharpanam’ tradition usually conducted during the month. The bullock, too, is a recurring imagery. T.N. Subodh Kumar, in his ‘Edavam’, has painted a majestic bull on a lush field. And Sunil Moothedath has used the image of the bull to dramatic effect in his ‘Kumbham’.

James P.J.’s canvases capture the intensity, joy and pain of the seasons. His ‘Thulam’ is a poignant interpretation in acrylic of a violent rain storm. His ‘Makaram’ depicts a sea of people waiting to catch a glimpse of Sabarimala’s famed ‘makara jyothi’. The Sabarimala reappears in Rajan Kadalundi’s works. He has recreated a visual of the 18 steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum in his inimitable style.

Metaphors of Kerala

The exhibition is replete with metaphors of Kerala. Traditions followed in various parts of the State, agricultural and religious practices and folklore have been represented with artistic flair. Balakrishnan Kathiroor, whose work borders on the abstract, interprets Kanni as a woman. Her head is in the centre and she wields fire and ‘kathir’ in either hand. T.N. Raju uses a mix of red, blue, brown and yellow to create the searing heat of summer in his ‘Meenam’. Simplicity and directness govern A..A. Ajithkumar’s works. A farmer makes paper boats beside a swollen stream in his ‘Edavam’. The background is an ominous shade of bluish black. Chingam does not bring on conventional Onam symbols for Shyju R. He deviates from the routine. His ‘Chingam’ has a lion’s face that dominates the canvas done in splashes of fiery yellow, orange and red. For Joby Ravindran, Chingam is all about Onam and a happy mix of colours and media.

All the artists of Panthirukulam have been associated with the Indian School of Art at Ravipuram. The camaraderie between them grew into a more meaningful association and the group was formed in 2010. Panthirukulam, formed in 2010, has conducted camps and exhibitions in Ernakulam.

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