Ramesh Raj has been filling one corner of the canvas for the last three days. He dips his brush in a bottle of paint, which he says, has been extracted from a mountain stone. The natural brick red of the linen draped around a man that appears on canvas, is enough to say that this is work that recalls another time.

Recreating tradition

While artists experiment with modern and contemporary art forms, a team of ten men have been painstakingly recreating traditional Indian paintings, created centuries ago on temple walls and ceilings at the Bharathiar Palkalai Koodam. Works from the Nayak era, the Vijayanagar empire, the Thanajvur Marathas and rock paintings of the Kurumba tribe of the Nilgiris and Kerala style murals, all make a reappearance at the traditional painter’s camp organised by the South Zone Cultural Centre.

“It is a rare to see these paintings in temples today. Many of them have disappeared or faded due to lack of preservation,” says P.V. Prabhakaran, art history lecturer and coordinator of the camp.

“These were originally created with natural colours, but today some temples allow them to be repainted with enamel paint,” rues Suresh Parambath, lecturer at the host college.

Traditional painting requires precision more than imagination, admits P.P.Rajendran, who has been doing Kerala style murals. “The colours to be used and measurements are also put down in Sanskrit slokas. It may be limiting to the artist but it is a sort of discipline.”

However A. Binil from Thrissur, who has created paintings for old and new temples in Kerala says, “I have followed the rules, but I have also added my own imagination. ”

His Arthanareeswarar (half-male, half-female) has his own touches like a sun on one breast and moon on the other and a kundalini yoga symbol.

For R. Krishnan, of the Kurumba tribe, recreating the tribal paintings found in the rocks inside forests in Kotagiri is a way to take his less-known art to people.

“By creating miniatures of the Vijayanagar style of traditional paintings, we have revived a dying school of art,” says Gulbarga artist Vijay Siddaramappa talking about the Surup art works.

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