A close encounter with cats
P.G. DINESH takes his cats seriously. They are not mere pets to be fed or occasionally cuddled as they ready to curl up lazily in a quiet corner of the room. His stock includes five white felines at home that he has studied with the passion of a scholar. In no time he gets under their skin, understands their behaviour, expressions, bodily features and all the nitty-gritty that goes into the making of a cat. Armed with this idiosyncratic knowledge he goes about painting them in their various moods, some imagined others real.
"They move around stealthily... it's a quirk but it becomes an inherent part of their nature to be secretive." In a series executed in black and white, they can be seen prancing, jumping, striking an acrobatic pose, eating fish or simply observing. The line drawing is strong and encases the form of a stylised cat. He decorates them with armbands, patterns on the tail, whiskers that change shape in each frame from a wave or just a vast sweep. Witty or whimsical the cat rules the roost.
We move to more complex compositions where the cat is still the dominant figure but is now accompanied by other lesser beings. Snakes, mice, birds, even a heavily bosomed Mother Goddess and "freely dancing figures" surround the key player, who meanwhile basks in her eminence.
Dinesh works meticulously, creating a neat, well embellished artwork. Even the rain that falls from well-trimmed clouds is orderly. The background conjures up images that are not easily visible at first glance. Sometimes he uses treated mud for the background, and paints with natural pigments in tempera so that his colours are brilliant and stunning. Against earthy backdrops his blues and greens on the overly patterned body stand out magnificently. His fondness for natural pigments grew as he watched theyyam dancers of north Kerala paint their faces and bodies with it.
Besides his fetish for felines, it is tribal art that fascinates this young artist from Thrissur. Here the temples and harvests hold sway and the folk art that emanates is both rich and energetic, says Dinesh. He jettisons all that he learnt at art school where the stress is on European styles. Instead this recipient of a national award prefers to adopt the raw and rustic style that exists in his town.
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