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ART among the masses

It's high time art came out of the galleries and into the midst of people, says artist Razi Rozario. LEENA GITA RAGHUNATH finds him selling paintings for as little as Rs. 2, as part of this endeavour.

Two off Razi Rozario's paintings.

THE INDIAN Consumer Exhibition, undoubtedly, is any consumer's dream come true; from cars to safety pins, all under one roof makes this show a definite consumer's paradise. Among all those myriad stalls at a recent exhibition in the city a stall that complements the aesthetic sense of man and presents him with a `shadow of divine perfection' stood out.

This stall showcased a collection of oil paintings in vibrant colours done by one of the promising names among the new genre of artists - Razi Rozario.

There were many pleasant surprises that this store offered to any person who has always had an eye for art, but always thought of them to be exclusive possessions of the rich. But here, you got the laminated and framed copies of the art pieces at prices that can very well fit into any man's pocket.

And again, you had none other than the artist to attend to you at the stall. A self-made artist, groomed by the youth festivals and University Kalotsavams, Razi Rozario echoes a new era in the world of colours.

Art among people

"It's high time art got out of the cold galleries. It is among the strenuous daily life of the common ordinary man that a piece of art should breathe and not in the silent mundane atmosphere of a gallery," says Razi Rozario. His profile stands witness to this, as out of his 39 exhibitions conducted so far, only three has been in art galleries, whereas five were in village camps and the rest, exhibitions in colleges and public programmes.

"It's a sorry fact that any Malayali has no difficulty in naming the top 10 favourites from the world of Malayalam literature or from the field of music, but when asked about painters, he has to ram his brains to fish out a name after the erstwhile Raja Ravi Varma. This is because we have failed in publicising art. If singers still stuck to the conventional way of giving kacheris and adamantly refused to record them in cassettes considering it as demeaning, then music would still be in its old ailing form. The same situation exists with art today; unless something is done immediately to revitalise it, it would be a sad time for art and artists."

Translating his words into action, Razi attempted the bold move of putting up for sale the lamination copies of his paintings in their original size to the size of a matchbox.

Rs. 2 painting

The net result: you can own his paintings for even Rs. 2! At the stall, the young artist attended respectfully to two kids who had carefully built a heap of coins that totalled Rs. 4 from their tiny purse.

After a careful perusal of the miniature copies of his paintings, they settle for his work, `Suffocation', commenting that it resembled their mother. Sending them off happily, each with a free picture of their preference, the artist says that even such incidents offers him a valuable lesson to treasure, adding that a grown up would have had some inhibitions in comparing his\her mother to the naked lady facing a wall, portrayed in `Suffocation'.

Waving aside with a calm smile all the criticisms showered on him for commercialising art, he says that many quality artists of today are forced to do portraits rather than artistic works for the sake of sustenance, and questions whether it is mandatory that an artist gets recognition only after his death. Citing his favourite, Van Gogh as an example, he says that the present condition in Kerala is not a far cry from his days in Paris, centuries earlier.

Razi Rozario has earlier published a collection of 12 paintings and poems - a Van Gogh series, in the form of a book titled (Ploughed Up Sky) `Uzuthumaricha Aakasham', which has been well received by connoisseurs of art as well as the public.

Next collection

Motivated, he is about to release his next collection on paper and CD, titled, `Dreams Of Colours', which he says, is his depiction of how art should be cherished.

Happy about the way he is surviving in the field, with his Rozario Art Gallery at Kacherippadi fetching him the much-needed income, Razi comments on why he has never attended personally any exhibitions outside India though he has been offered some.

"My first 29 exhibitions have been exclusively in Kerala. Only after I have been fairly acknowledged in Kerala, I started accepting invitations for exhibitions outside Kerala. My intention was to shatter the common belief that for an artist to gain recognition he has to go abroad; I wanted to be famous in my homeland first and to be invited by others on that basis. For past two years, I have been representing Kerala in the Indian National Trade Fair at New Delhi. After getting recognition in the national arena I will definitely take up international offers."

Brave and enthusiastic, this artist of the young genre and his oil paintings, done with the palette knife in bright hues of blue, red and orange, are fast gaining attention among the general public, inside and outside Kerala.

Art foundation

His future plans include effective popularisation of art and setting up an art foundation to help the struggling artists. As he boldly experiments with the medium, his endeavours may well provide a fresh breath of life for art and artists.

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