Muthukrishnan Ramalingam, a hearing-impaired artist, is participating in the 26 International Painting Contest in Cuvio, Italy

As you read this, 57-year-old Muthukrishnan Ramalingam would have travelled half way around the world to participate in the 26 International Painting Contest in Cuvio, Italy.

Being the sole Indian representative, Ramalingam, a hearing-impaired artist, excitedly signs (as his son interprets), “Italy is a place of such history, where the Renaissance began. Going there to paint and interact with other artists is going to be an enriching experience.”

This however is hardly the first of Ramalingam’s foreign sojourns. Art has taken him to Brazil, Spain, Europe and the U.S, in the past. 1989 was the year that promised to change everything: a scholarship to Oxford enabled him to find his feet as an artist.

“Before that I used to do only academic drawings. But in Britain, with the support of the university, and the exposure to galleries and the people I met, I developed my own style.”

Talking about his work, Ramalingam says it is colour and what he sees around him that he draws inspiration from. This fascination for the everyday is revealed in many of his paintings, like those of a bus stop, a market place, and even the living room of a house, to name a few.

Despite travelling far and wide Ramalingam’s paintings are stamped with a distinctively ‘Indian’ aesthetic. Chuckling, he says, “Whatever I paint, even if it is a scene abroad I always make sure I add an Indian touch — a woman wearing a bindi, or a rickshaw. Just like pickle, to taste.”

The pressures of juggling a day job at Indian Overseas Bank and finding time for art have not diminished his spirit. If anything, it is the lack of funding and training facilities in the country that leaves him disappointed.

“It’s not like we don’t have the talent. But they need to be trained,” he says.

Interestingly, for Ramalingam, it is the beginning of his artistic journey which remains his most special memory.

Recalling his first exhibition, he says, “Though we made so many errors and did not know how to organise the event, it was the first time I could show myself to the world, in the way I knew best — through art.”

Ramalingam’s 18-year-old son R. Nitin pledges to perpetuate his legacy. He vows to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue art professionally.

More In: Chennai | Society