Friday, April 19, 2013

befitting memorial to Chavittunatakam exponent

He has been sweating profusely under the scorching sun for the past three months in Gothuruthu to see his dream come true. Anto George, an artist from Thrissur is busy sculpting the statue of ‘Chinnathampi Annavi, the proponent of Chavittunatakam in Kerala.

 He has taken up a huge responsibility as it is for the first time that a face is being given to the legend. “It can be regarded as a historical monument. A 11-foot-tall statue of an exponent of Chavittunatakam is being built for the first time. My responsibility is to give him a face,” he says. It was his association with the organisers of Kochi-Muziris Biennale Foundation that gave him the golden opportunity to pursue his dream.

 Chinnathampi Annavi is being depicted in his glittering robes holding a cross with a curve and ivy spiraling around it. The statue stands on a pedestal.

“It is based on the medieval Christian myth which says that the zeal of Chinnathampi Annavi was so intense that the cross started embracing him while he was performing the art. I am designing the statue as if the cross were to embrace him. The climbing ivy suggests the entanglement of good and evil,” Anto says. Regarding the face of Chinnathampi Annavi, he says that the statue will bear the face of Charlemagne, the Roman Emperor whose story, the proponent propagated.

 “Historically speaking I did not have enough materials to support me in this direction. It is still a matter of dispute whether he belonged to Kerala or Tamil Nadu. Some are of the opinion that he is a Portuguese who came here and became a hermit and later took up the proselytising activities through a newly created art form ‘Chavittunatakam’. Apart from that as the legend is always associated with ‘Karalmanscharitham’ (story of Charlemagne), I decided to give him his face,” he says.

 Anto is being assisted by Sunil Kumar, Rajeev Basheer and Shibi. “My attempt is to make a contemporary statue, a  sharp deviation from the conventional,” he says.

  Chavittunatakam experienced a lull for a prolonged period. Of late, it is slowly treading the path of revival. With the country’s first Biennale, the cosmopolitan character of Kochi is also resurrecting. “ At this juncture, it would be incomplete if the name of Chinnathampi Annavi is omitted,” says the artist. Anto hopes to complete the statue before monsoon. “The work is moving at a slow pace. We could have presented it before the Biennale ended but  we want it to be as perfect as possible,” he says.

published in The New Indian Express

Picturing vintage architecture

It was a bright afternoon. Sitting alongside a street at Mattanchery, 10-year-old Achuthan was immersed in painting one of his favourite pictures. Soon the crowd swelled. Undaunted by the overwhelming presence of people around him, he completed his picture. It was then he realised that his painting session had created a minor traffic block. Ask if he was aghast by the incident, he says mischievously “I was just concentrating on my painting. I did not realise until my father told me about it.” 

Unlike other young artists of his age, Achuthan Shenoy loves to paint old buildings in monochromatic sepia. It was a skill that he imbibed from his father. He has also taken the huge responsibility of imprinting the heritage through his painting, like his father. “The age-old buildings are mercilessly demolished. We can learn a lot about our past through these buildings. Hence my attempt is to absorb our heritage on a canvas,” says Achuthan.

He explains that most of the artists paint with the combination of many colours to create a sepia tone. But that cannot be called monochromatic sepia but just sepia. “My father creates the sepia tone with just one colour and hence the name. I too follow that.”

The young artist was ardently following his passion for the past one year.  Achuthan assisted his father in 15 sites before attempting himself in this forte. “Since I am small, my father paints the outer sketch and I give light and shade to it,” he says.

So far, Achuthan has drawn about 15 paintings of old buildings of Mattanchery and Fort Kochi. Though he was giving colours to age-old buildings which can of course be considered as  monuments, he is not a bit scared that it would go wrong. “I know the techniques to rectify the mistakes,” he says.

The young artist says that he also paints every angles of a building. “It will help a person who is new to the city identify the building from any angle,” he says. Besides painting old buildings, he would also like to draw sky, his another favourite subject. Among his 15 pictures, his all time favourite is the 300 year old Portuguese building which is now converted into a home stay.

Ask him why he wanted to become a painter he says, “I want to be famous.”  The dream to become a painter kindled in him, once Achuthan saw his father being interviewed. “If I become famous I will be interviewed like my father,” he says. But Achutan did not have to wait too long, as he was interviewed by BBC crew who reached Fort Kochi to document Kochi - Muziris Biennale. The documentary will have shots of Achuthan painting in the street.

Though Achuthan is indisputably a painter in the making, he has not participated in any competitions. “I do not want to participate in competitions. I just want to draw without any inhibition,” he says.

Apart from monochromatic painting, his another passion is music. Achutha Shenoy is the son of Dinesh R Shenoy and Asha Shenoy.

published in The New Indian Express