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Anpu Varkey describes her silent comic as a sepia-tinted memory

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The visuals say it all: Artist Anpu Varkey describes her silent comic Summer’s Children as a sepia-tinted memory

Summer’s Children defies language. In some ways it is asking just for your attention. Anpu Varkey’s silent comic, which comprises only visuals and no text, comes at a time when we are constantly being bombarded with information. The comic makes you pause, go within, and reminisce your childhood memories. Each panel is detailed and brings alive the interiors of a rubber plantation in Kerala, where the book is set.

Anpu, who has painted stunning public art murals across the country, brings her creative skills to Summer’s Children. “It took me two years to draw for the book and a year to look around for publishers. The whole process took around three years,” says Anpu, who has self published the book. Her first silent comic was Jaba, published in 2014, but she says Summer’s Children is a larger book.

“I have done comics for other publications as well, such as Verite 01 and Verite 02, an anthology of comics published by Comix India.

Anpu Varkey describes her silent comic as a sepia-tinted memory

Summer’s Children is a story of my childhood in Pala, Kottayam, where I spent the first three years of my childhood, and then subsequent summer vacations. I did not go back to the place to do a briefing. Also, the place does not exist any more, so the book is about memory and loss.”

The story is a visual narration from the perspective of two siblings, and their explorations over a day. “I wanted to depict this luxurious, heightened place that I was part of. This book is mainly for adults because you would reminisce your past in some ways. So it is a memoir of some sort,” says Anpu, who completed her Master of Fine Arts (BFA + MFA) at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, and received a diploma in Fine Arts at Central St Martins Byam Shaw School of Art, London.

The power of the silent comic, says Anpu, is that the reader can interpret the story in their own way. “I find it hard to tell a story from a first or a third person perspective, and to think over how the story should be situated. The story is about reflecting on a different level.”

Initially, the drawings were made on A3 pages, but later made on A5 pages. “I wanted to make it a pillow book, one that you could keep under your pillow.”

Anpu Varkey describes her silent comic as a sepia-tinted memory

Anpu is well-known for her public art such as of a 158-foot mural of Mahatma Gandhi in the Delhi Police Headquarters in ITO, Delhi, which she made in collaboration with German artist Hendrick Beikirch and of a giant harvest moon near Halasuru metro station in Bengaluru.

Anpu says public art happened serendipitously. “In 2012, a friend of mine gathered a couple of people at Khirki Extension, Delhi. My first wall was 20 by 40 feet. It was a realisation that this is something I can do. It was five to seven years of free work that I did. Part of becoming an artist is that we forget to have fun. I constantly push myself, learning something new.”

Anpu Varkey describes her silent comic as a sepia-tinted memory

Public art is often considered as reclaiming the streets, but Anpu does not agree. “I am not interested only in my painting. Most of the times I have had lovely conversations with people. I don’t think I am above anything when I am on the streets, this is when I am totally humble. On the street, I am accountable to everyone, unlike in the studio where you are only accountable to yourself. For me public space is not an arrogant space, what is there to reclaim?”

Anpu, though, agrees that public art is not always an easy space to work in. “But it is not as if I know how to inhabit it...it is a learning process. I don’t revisit my work. I think of it as a learning process, it is never ending. And that has allowed me to try a new medium. All of this happened because I broke out of my studio practice, expanded my skills, and not think I am precious. Every time I tried something new, I always got the opportunity to expand it further.”

Unlike murals, Anpu says, comics take a longer to make. “Graffiti is faster, it takes me about three to five days. But the comic took me days to do because it is completely done by hand.”

Anpu’s next project is with Daksh, a Bengaluru-based civil society organisation focused on solving the problem of pendency of cases in the Indian legal system. To celebrate 70 years of the Constitution and our Republic, Daksh is organising several events between Constitution Day (November 26, 2019) and Republic Day (January 26, 2020). The campaign, called Republic@70 seeks to deepen our engagement with the Constitution and make it more relatable to ordinary Indians. “I am working on a mural with Daksh,” says Anpu.

Summer’s Children is available on anpuvarkey.com/

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 6:07:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/the-visuals-say-it-all/article30468345.ece

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