Art teacher V Rajagopal on his recent work inspired by Thirukkural couplets

Art teacher V Rajagopal on his work at Thriukkural Koodam, Chennai that was inspired by the ancient text

A lotus bud rises from a pond in the foreground and a meditative figure sits in Padmasana in the background — this painting by artist V Rajagopal captures the essence of the Thirukkural couplet ‘Vellaththanaiya Malar Neetam Manthartham Ullath Thanaiyathu Uyarvu’ from Ookamudaimai. “The couplet says that as one rises in stature, he must make himself worthy of it with noble thoughts. You can infer many meanings,” explains Rajagopal. One’s ideas and thoughts should eventually lead to good deeds. “I have kept the blue skies as the background to show that the concepts are universal.”

Rajagopal is just back from Chennai where he received an award from the International Institute of Tamil Studies. His painting, a panel of four couplets, now graces the walls of Thriukkural Koodam, an exhibition hall in Chennai.

Art teacher V Rajagopal on his recent work inspired by Thirukkural couplets

The artist is not new to using Thirukkural couplets as inspiration. He did so in miniature form back in the 80s. “I came up with figurative work for 100 Thriukkural couplets. The 35 mm discarded film strips were my canvas. Through this contest, I revisited my earlier days.” The panel work also features a wounded elephant. This, derived from the couplet ‘Sidhaivitaththu Olkaar Uravor Pudhaiyampir Pattuppaa-toondrung Kaliru’. “The elephant’s body is pierced by an arrow and there is blood oozing from it. But that doesn’t deter the elephant. It is just to show that a strong-willed mind never falters in adverse situation. I have used a grey background to express calm and discipline which are essential to get out of difficult times.”

Another segment shows deep sea pearl-hunting. “They dive several hundred feet under water to harvest pearls and conches. They have to take risks but they do so for a livelihood. The couplet ‘Ulluva Thellam Uyarvullal Matradhu Thallinum Thallamai Neerthu’, captures this. It urges one to set big goals driven by noble purpose.”

Notable works
  • Flute Player - which he painted at the Brahma Kumaris Shantivan at Mount Abu in Rajasthan as part of a National painting contest and workshop where 250 professional artists from all over India painted on the theme of unity, peace and prosperity. He used a human abstract form to represent the flute player
  • Triveni Sangamam at an artist get together organised by Allahabad Museum and Nav Aakar International Artist Group
  • Rajagopal displayed a series on Shiva, at an exhibition at the Kumbh Mela organised by the South Zone Cultural Centre.“I completed most of the paintings during the three day train journey,” he recalls.
  • Over 60 of his paintings including landscapes, portraits, and miniatures of wild animals were displayed recently at the Karnataka Chithre Santhe, Bengaluru

A tiger roars at an elephant on the panel, and the artist points out how even though the elephant is bigger and has sharp tusks, it still fears the tiger’s attack. Size and positions is not always the deciding factor. Thiruvalluvar's couple that starts with 'Pariyadhu Koorngottadhu Aayinum...’ conveys this message.

Rajagopal, who retired as the art teacher at Government High School in Devarayapuram, has taught art for over three decades and feels the need for proper training in art with more art camps. He says an understanding of not just the colours but also the subject one choose to paint adds value to the work. He is inspired by the works of many artists like artist Manian Selvan (illustration), Trotsky Marudhu ( for the beauty of movement in his illustration, animation, and realism) Adhimoolam (line drawing, colours, ad contemporary work) Chandru (for his comparative works on Indian and European art sculptures), Dr. Alphonso (cubic art forms), and Dr. Sirpi Jeyaram (charcoal work and line drawings). “I taught art to my students with whatever material was available to them. They drew birds, tigers, and elephants, or gave shape to tribal and folk art forms. They also experimented with terracotta, geometric designs, animation art ( 2D and 3 D)...” Rajagopal hopes that art is given a prominent place in curriculum. “It makes students observe and think. Art also filters stress and anger.”

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:31:07 AM |

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