Corporates in Coimbatore hit the creative route, visually enhancing offices, college campuses and boardrooms with vibrant art and sculptures to create inclusive spaces

A cheery painting here, a sculpture in a corner, an installation art there, a mural at the entrance… This is how new-age conference halls, boardrooms, executive lounges, office lobbies and college corridors look like. These areas once meant stiff leather chairs, notice boards and a staid painting or two that merged with the wall. Now, these are the new spaces for art. And, heralding this aesthetic change are executives with an artistic bent of mind, and those who believe art is a soothing, enriching experience.

Visitors to the expansive lobby of Le Meridien, part of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts network, are greeted by two large multi-media murals, created by Santhanam, a local artist. It showcases local agricultural traditions and serves as an introduction to Kongu culture. Inside, the rooms abound with decals bearing motifs of cotton, the staple crop which gives Coimbatore the moniker of Manchester of South India.

The art work, says P. Ramachandran, hotel manager, is in keeping with Starwood’s policy of recognising and showcasing local art. They also have plans to provide some space to local artists to sell their creations.

Industrialist Ravi Sam’s office in Sowripalayam is a gallery of sorts with elegant sculptures, water bodies, vibrant cushions and lots of wall art. Art, he says, frees up the mind and calms him down.

His staff loves the workspace too. “They are very proud of their workspace, and often, I notice them showing people around, and explaining the aesthetics,” he says.

Shankar Vanavarayar’s love for art, photography and artefacts is evident in his workspace. Once his collection crossed a certain number, he decided the art was not going to be just for his eyes; it would embellish public spaces. Some of the works hang in family-run enterprises, besides Kumaraguru College of Technology, of which Shankar is joint correspondent.

The visitors’ lobby, conference halls, and even some corridors in the college boast works by local artists. An entire wall has been dedicated to the works of renowned wildlife photographer T.N.A. Perumal. “Students love this display of art, and they seek to replicate it in their homes,” says Shankar. It makes art more accessible, and triggers curiosity, he adds.

Local touch

Pricol is another corporate where the walls have been home to art works for more than two decades now. A mixture of abstract, realistic and contemporary art has been showcased in the passages, offices and even factory. Most of these have been created by artists in Coimbatore and Chennai. Vanitha Mohan, vice-president, says it breaks the monotony and serious look of an office and lends it colour and life.

People have always invested in art in a private capacity, but why do they bring it in the public domain? After you acquire a certain quantum of paintings, you just feel the need to share their beauty with the world. How long can you look at something yourself, asks a collector.

So, they circulate the works, and shuffle them around the office space. This way, every work gets displayed, and it also lends a new, dynamic look.

Ravi Sam started collecting art when he was just out of college. “Initially, I was more into traditional art such as bronzes and Tanjore paintings. There was very little focus on contemporary art,” he says. Today, some of his collections are in storage; the rest are sprinkled around his work space. “For office, I choose something that can be easily understood by all. So, I opt for near-realistic paintings,” he says.

Shankar started displaying his art collection about five years ago. He says two reasons act as a trigger for wanting to take art outside personal spaces — when you have a sense of satisfaction in sharing your collection, and when you want to promote a local artist.

This is why he visits and purchases at exhibitions held at Kasthuri Sreenivasan Trust (KST) featuring student artists, especially those from the Government College of Fine Arts Chennai, and Kumbakonam.

Coimbatore has two main galleries — the 25-year-old KST and the more recent Contemplate Art Gallery, started by Rajshree Pathy, besides some new entrants. D Sarath Chandran, managing trustee, KST, works out an office where a painting of five horses takes over a wall. At the KST gallery, the focus, he says, is on regular buyers who value the ‘visual’ impact and don’t really buy art as investment.

Unique statement

In some spaces, art is bought en mass to suit the décor; it does not make an individual style statement. Shankar says art must not be there for effect. “It must not be an impersonal effort. In many ways, art affects your mood and your mood affects what you display. I do not believe in stacking a lot of stuff on the walls, just for effect. They must have a purpose. They must inspire, and educate.”

Choosing art for public spaces

hang works that will strike a chord with people

Realistic works draw attention

Avoid disturbing images; choose paintings that spread cheer

Keep rotating works; it keeps interest alive