Society

A people’s painter

Painter M.G. Raffic Ahamed demonstrating collage art. Photo: T. Saravanan   | Photo Credit: mamp03perumal1

A rooster in full plumage, a group of turkeys with chicks in search of food, river banks, meadows…Legendary linear artist Perumalda’s works highlight the relationship he shared with nature and bird life. Even crows and ducks did not miss his attention. Drawn to detail, the paintings were the subject of discussion at the three-day exhibition of Perumal Ayya’s works organised by the Aravind Eye Care System (AECS).

“Perumalda worked in a poultry farm before he got into Shantiniketan Kala Bhavan. His line drawings of the poultry impressed his teachers and they took him in immediately. Probably, his love for birds would have started from there,” says art critic Indran, who wrote a book on the painter.

As part of the exhibition, series of lectures from art history to temple paintings to art in everyday life by eminent personalities such as Manohar Devadoss, R. Venkataraman and Trotsky Marudhu were organised. A live demonstration of collage art by M.G. Raffic Ahamed motivated the participants.

Inspired by the demonstration, P. Vishnu Vardhan, a bio chemistry student of The American College returned with a similar collage art the next day. “I was not aware of collage as a painting till Raffic introduced it to us here. The new technique was an eye opener for me to choose colour for the background and to cut the images and arrange them coherently to suit the concept. He also taught us perspective in collage art and how it plays a big role in driving home the message,” says Vishnu Vardhan.

Many shared that Perumalda was a keen observer and regularly attended the meetings organised by the district painters. N. Sulaiman, retired Regional Assistant Director, Department of Art and Culture, recalls that Perumalda was neither interested in declaring himself as a painter in open forum nor in giving away his paintings. “Many times I asked him to preside over functions at the Gandhi Memorial Museum,” he says.

But AECS plans to make it a permanent affair. “We may conduct monthly or fortnightly classes but would like a dedicated art group to take this forward. Our support will always be there,” says Chitra Thulasiraj, In charge Aravind Communications.

Birder T. Badri Narayanan: I know him since early 1980s when we used to travel together. I remember he had a good knowledge of bird life. We visited Sirumalai and Thekkady for bird watching. At one such expedition at Chakkupallam near Kambam Mettu, we spotted a Malabar Parrot. Generally, bird watchers jot down the name of birds they spot, the body and claws. The artist in him came to the fore when he drew the bird and was so meticulous that he noted the colour of the head, feathers and also the tail. He was well versed with the anatomy of birds. His paintings are scientific in that sense. For his age, Perumalda was very agile and also extremely health conscious. During one of our treks to Noopura Gangai from Alagarkoil, he effortlessly trekked and advised us to take only nuts and dry fruits. He took only light green tea. He used to say people should not live for money and fame alone.

Painter Trotsky Marudu: I came to know about Perumalda when I was studying in fifth standard. We had a big library at home and in my father’s collection of books on painting was ‘ Theneer Kalai’, a translation of Nandalal Bose’s book on art by Perumalda. I read that book and later when I met him in person after my studies in Chennai College of Fine Arts I was on cloud nine. We both worked together on a project that unfortunately did not take off. As part of the project, we roamed the streets of Madurai and photographed old residential buildings and sculptures. I met him couple of times after that but could not do any creative work with him. If Madurai played a big role in national art movement it was because of Perumalda as he bridged the gap between Bengal School of Art and Madurai.

Collage Artist M.G. Raffic Ahamed: I first met Perumalda at the Vaigai Artists’ Association where eminent artists of Madurai regularly met. He was soft spoken and looked like a Bengali. He had good knowledge about the Indian art scenario and was also adept in traditional colours. I was reading a lot of books on the history of art then and his books were an inspiration for me to write. He had a huge collection of Japanese books and a set of recorded videos of documentaries on nature and birds telecast by the Discovery channel. Perumalda practiced pigeon keeping. He was breeding more than 100 pigeons on the terrace of his house. He was reticent and wanted to know more about modern art. Till his last breath he was reluctant to share his works of art with others. He regularly visited my Art Gallery and is my ‘ manaseega guru’.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 7:56:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/a-peoples-painter/article7940863.ece

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