Veteran artist Akkitham Narayanan says these days he is exploring the vibrancy of colours, fascinated with their emotive quality that draws you in.

On the canvas, therefore, the white surface is rather significant as it projects all other shades, says the dapper artist sitting at the Nanappa Art Gallery where he spoke the other day on M. Govindan’s contributions to Kerala society.

The event coincided with a one-day art camp. Under way now at the gallery till January 31is an exhibition of works by eminent artists including the late C.N. Karunakaran, artist Namboodiri, Jeevanlal, T. Kaladharan, Rajan Krishnan and Akkitham Narayanan.

Dwelling on the nature of his current works, Mr. Narayanan says while the intensity of colours is for everyone to savour, only a discerning viewer gets to appreciate the calligraphic scrape marks, Malayalam letters, hymns and chants scrawled over them.

A resident of Paris for 46 years, the artist says all this has been part of his works right through. Only, they have become increasingly pronounced over time. “The scrawls and lines help lessen the rigidity of the geometric structure [a constant feature of his works].”

Far from methodical, Mr. Narayanan experiences bouts of creativity, lasting a few months at times, punctuated by phases of absolute idleness. Despite being cut off from Kerala for nearly half-a-century, the artist keeps pace with developments vis-à-vis the State and its language, which was enriched by his elder brother poet Akkitham Achuthan Namboodiri.

Kerala has changed tremendously in the last five decades, embracing the latest technologies and all that is part of modern life. Unfortunately, though, there has been a concurrent change in our notions of humanity, morality, language and culture, he laments.

The Malayalam script, as we used to scribble it, would be completely unintelligible to today’s youngsters. But what saddens me the most is the dilution, if not excision, of social sciences like geography, civics and social sciences in general in school curriculums. In the West, in countries like France, governments are trying to revive the old notions of student-teacher relationship, which had gone for a toss in the wake of the May Revolution in 1968. We need to do something similar here, too, he says. For Mr. Narayanan, the most visible and dastardly change has taken place in Kerala’s cultural landscape and people’s lifestyle. “The Gulf culture has made it all too artificial. What to speak of a people in a tropical region that has shunned cotton fabrics for nylon clothes! Ditto with the place’s architectural heritage. It is a matter of pity that we are not interested in retaining our distinctive identity, he rues.

Mr. Narayanan, however, thinks that the art scene in Kerala is looking up, despite having taken a quantum jump to contemporary art, clearly missing the process of transition from the traditional to the modern.

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