Art

This Kerala artist conjures up a world of art using seashells

Fine touch (Clockwise from left) A replica of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple using seashells; Sreeja Kalappurakkal; a painting

Fine touch (Clockwise from left) A replica of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple using seashells; Sreeja Kalappurakkal; a painting   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

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For Sreeja Kalappurakkal shells provide an “eco-friendly” canvas to her imagination

For self-taught artist and nature lover Sreeja Kalappurakkal, “anything” can be a canvas to express one’s imagination. Having previously worked on feather and stone art, Sreeja then tried her hand at sea shells. Looking for a new medium, she realised there could not be a more “eco-friendly” canvas.

Art exhibition ‘Luminous’, which opened on Tuesday at Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan, showcases a collection of 150-odd artwork embellished with seashells. While the ‘shell paintings’, where large pieces of mother of pearl turn canvas, depict nature, wildlife and slice-of-life scenes, “shell collages” such as a Buddha figure and a large “pendant” hung on the wall form other creative works pieced together using the exoskeleton. Eschewing “inorganic” materials, the paintings are affixed to jute and wooden frames. The largest shell painting, which depicts a lion, is about 25-cm wide and the longest one, showing two giraffes, 40-cm long.

A painting on seashells

A painting on seashells   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

“I want my works to reflect the importance of nature conservation and adopting an eco-friendly way of life both on a literal and figurative level. Perhaps, the only exception is the use of acrylic since other painting materials I tried would come off or smudge easily,” says Sreeja, a member of OISCA International that works towards nature conservation. She, however, finds that working on the convex surfaces is challenging to get the “perspective and symmetry” spot on.

Apart from the paintings, the highlights of the display are replicas of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur, all fashioned out of hundreds of sea shells sourced from across the country. “Often, sourcing the right type of shells is a difficult task as they have to be symmetrical, undamaged and of the required size,” says Sreeja, who resides in Thrissur.

The central supporting frameworks for the temple replicas, which make use of smaller spiky shell varieties measuring between 1 cm to 3.5 cm long, are made out of teak. Sreeja says it took her about three months each to put together the temple models. Shells are also used as adornments on decorative pots that are part of the collection.

A replica of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple using seashells

A replica of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple using seashells   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

Sreeja says she sources the shells from several coastal towns such as Kanyakumari and Rameswaram, depending on the type required. “For the mother of pearls, Kanyakumari and Rameswaram are my go-to places mostly. By now, I know beachcombers and shell vendors who contact me when they collect shells of the variety I can use. For the temples replicas, I have sourced shells mainly from Mumbai, Surat, Kutch (Gujarat) and Kolkata,” she says. Being much sought-after and considered a valuable decoration, Sreeja says she often has to shell out a good sum to purchase them from vendors.

The Nilambur-based artist, who holds a place in the Limca book of records for her feather art, says she started collecting shells in 2017 and began her “experiments” with the curved canvas a year later. An avid traveller, she also relies on her “photographer friends” to lend beautiful subjects, especially of nature and wildlife, for her work.

A replica of Vadakkunnathan Temple using seashells

A replica of Vadakkunnathan Temple using seashells   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

Transportation of the “delicate” works for shows and exhibitions is something Sreeja finds tricky and she has to be “extra careful” with the process. “On such occasions, there’s no escaping the use of bubblewraps and thermocols,” she says.

Formerly an art teacher with a private school, Sreeja later quit her job to devote time to pursue her “passion” for art.

Luminous’ was on at the art gallery at Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan till January 11

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 2:06:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/this-kerala-artist-conjures-up-a-world-of-art-using-seashells/article30522884.ece

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