The essence of art

DEFINING AUM: K. A. Francis (extreme right) at the release of the book. Photo: V. Sudershan   | Photo Credit: V. Sudershan

With the changes at the top of all the cultural bodies in the State setting in, the teams are ready to begin afresh. The new Chairman of the Kerala Lalitakala Akademi, K.A. Francis, artist and journalist, has already chalked out plans to connect the common man further with art. “The committee has not been finalised and once that is done, we can get to work. The Akademi's plans will be a continuity of what the last team did. For instance, there is a photographer's camp for the under-30 at Thekkady from October 23, which was finalised earlier. That will be held.”

Access to art

But what Francis is sore about is the fact that in the last one year, the public has had little access to art and artists, little space to show their work in Kochi and Kozhikode. Of course there are private galleries, but in these two cities where artists and art enthusiasts abound, the Akademi galleries were non-functional. While the Durbar Hall Art Centre in Kochi has been lying closed for revamping it for the Kochi Biennale, (by the Biennale Foundation) in Kozhikode, the Corporation had taken it over for maintenance and upgradation some time ago. “Now, it is not equipped for an art gallery but only for other kind of exhibitions, but we are ready to alter it once they hand it over to us,” says Francis in an exclusive interview to Friday Review.

The Akademi will take charge of the The Durbar Hall Art Centre at the end of this month. “It will be given to the Biennale Foundation only during the period of the biennale. There are fears that artists may not be able to afford the high rates since it is air conditioned, but the good news is that artists can still use it at the old rates, without air conditioning. We will make provisions for that. The Central Lalitakala Akademi outlet will also be reinstalled at another room at the Centre. We will give the Central Lalitakala Akademi all cooperation and will work closely with them too,” he said.

Setting up more art galleries in smaller towns is also high on its agenda. The Akademi is talking to the civic bodies.

“If they give us a building, we will convert it into a gallery. Already Kodungallur, Kasaragod, Thodupuzha and Alappuzha civic bodies have given us buildings,” says Francis.

Then, more and more people can see art and get acquainted with popular artists too, for the Akademi will have some from its own collection adorning these walls when artists don't use it for shows, as in all its galleries.

This positive attitude and earnest willingness to give something back to society is certainly in the right direction for art to spread to more people.

The magic of Aum

The book, ‘The Essence of Aum,’ by K.A. Francis artist-journalist, and chairman of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi has won the first Pranavakshar Puraskar instituted by the Haridwar-based Abhetha Gangamayya Trust in Haridwar. He will be presented with the award on October 23. Something to cheer about, certainly.

But how come Francis, a Christian, could write on such a subject? “I do tantric art and as a result, got interested in Aum. I have been doing research on Aum for many many years. My father ran an art institute in Thrissur and that’s how I was exposed to art. He told me about tantric art and how very few people did it. During the summer vacations, he sent me to an art school in Haridwar to learn tantric art in the Vaishnavite way. It’s all about measurements and there are certain restrictions imposed on artists who do tantric art. During the period I do tantric art, I follow these restrictions, like eating only vegetarian food.” Francis has held exhibitions of tantric art and has painted more than 2,000 Vishnupadams and Lakshmipadams.

‘The Essence of Aum,’ was first published in English. In January 2011, the Malayalam version got published by the Sahitya Pravarthaka Cooperative Society and in June 2011, the German and French translations came out. The Spanish and Portuguese translations are due shortly.

The book gives you what the sages have said and also what is said about Aum in the Upanishads. He given several parallels in life that denote Aum such as the way the child lies in the womb and the spiritual magic of the sound is explained in many dimensions, with photos of Francis’ tantric art in the last few pages.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 10:50:13 PM |

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