The colours belong to Chennai, and the emotions to Madras

Meet Mahalakshmi, an artist active on Instagram who is now engaged in a work that promises to paint a visual history of the city

Published - June 09, 2024 09:20 pm IST

Known for her Insta-art (@mahaxarts), Mahalakshmi is focussed on making “two-layered” art — with the top layer translucent enough to display the one below.

This two-layered art reflects her growing connectedness to Chennai. It is not a superficial, surface-level connectedness, but one that looks beneath the surface. That pointed look leads her to Madras every time.

“Now, I see the stories of Madras in Chennai, I see buildings that have lived through so many different significant events, I see Chennai through its course in time. Now, both Chennai and Madras are home,” she explains, adding that her artworks about Chennai betray her emotions around Madras. She is planning a calendar about Chennai, a project she expects to complete and showcase in 2025.

A snatch of her account of the favourite things in Chennai should provide a sneak-peek into the calendar, leaving one in no doubt about what to expect from it.

“One of my favourites or inspirations is the Kardyl Buiding or Bharath Insurance Building as it is now known. It is nestled in a quaint corner in Mount Road and I every time I would drive past it, I would wonder what it was. With tall minarets, stained glass and the classic exposed brick - it stands tall as a testament of time. In essence, I believe more than pointing out a specific monument or film as my inspiration; it would make sense to say that the city, its stories, the people and their emotions collectively are my muse, my inspiration.”

A visual historian

Her sense of what makes for meaningful art lends itself to digging up details about Madras which dwelling on a current aspect of Chennai.

“I believe the concept or story behind each artwork is more important than the execution of the work itself,” says Mahalakshmi. Her art is therefore organically connected to anecdotes, making her a visual chronicler, even historian, of Chennai and Madras. “The larger purpose is to bring attention to lesser-known chronicles and places that have contributed to these anecdotes,” says Mahalakshmi, a resident of Karpagam Avenue in R.A. Puram.

The craft

Mahalakshmi shares how her style as an artist has evolved over the years, “Currently I work on digital art, watercolours and pen sketching, where I love to accentuate the tiny details.”

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