In many ways, artist M. Dilipkumar represents Kochi’s great tradition in visual art. His father, the visionary Mattappilly Raman, founded an art school and his elder brothers, the famous sculptor-painter M.R.D. Dathan and designer-artist M.R. Babu Ram, too had practiced what they learned from their father. Youngest in the family of artists, Mr. Dilipkumar gave The Hindu his assessment of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India’s first major contemporary art event.
I have taken part in many art movements. My father and my brothers were artists. I used to keenly follow biennales held in other countries through newspaper and magazine articles. A biennale is a big thing. It is a venue for artists all over the world to showcase their work.
The usual procedure for shows here is for the Akademis, the Lalitha Kala Akademi in the State and the Centre, to be involved. I think these bodies had not participated in the initial discussions for the biennale.
All the Indian artists who were featured in the biennale were good.
Qualitatively, all the artworks weren’t great. The installations were alright and the idea was there. What was lacking was permanency. If you take Kanayi Kunhiraman’s installations, the one at Shankhumugham for example, it is a visual treat. You can stand in front of it and look at it for hours together. The feeling it creates cannot be described in words. There is a permanency to the work. That cannot be achieved all of a sudden. It takes hard work and research.
The Kochi biennale should have been better compared to other events like the Venice biennale. But the organisers should be lauded for creating a contemporary art movement like this. They cannot be written off. Earlier, people would look at a work of art and ask ‘What does it mean?’ The biennale has helped create an appreciation for contemporary art among people here.
I was part of an art camp held as part of the biennale on 12/12/12. Many artists came to the camp, and made drawings. I welcome the effort taken to set up the biennale.
There are people who will oppose anything and everything. I think some of the controversies surrounding the biennale were raised for personal reasons. I think the government should also come forward to support the event and make it better. It would have been a big loss, if the biennale hadn’t happened here. But for the future editions, I think there should be greater freedom for people to express their opinions.