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Strong, simple canvases

THERE'S URGENCY in her voice as Tiya Thomas gushes, "I'm so nervous. In fact, I'm scared like anything. I've never given a speech and I have stage fright." A thick, broad plait and braces complete the picture of a typical teenager still coping with the challenges that adolescence brings. She could easily pass off as the girl next door; only she shares the dais with a well-known artist of the State, members from the city's corporation office, and Centre for Studies in Culture and Heritage of Cochin. Moreover, when called upon to do so she masked her panic with confidence as she read out a prepared speech and later accepted a bouquet from a girl, no older than herself.

Tiya Thomas is all of fourteen years, a painter and already aware of her celebrity status. Her works were on display at the EMS Memorial Town Hall. Her prolific oeuvre, spanning a period of five years, included seventy-nine paintings. Tiya started doodling when she was little more than a babe in arms. At seven, her mother was the first to recognise a latent talent when she happened to come across her copies of cartoon characters. Tiya was packed off to an art class at Cochin Arts and Communications where she learnt a lot more than mere duplication of images. Meanwhile, it was under the tutelage of Rajan, her teacher at school, who encouraged her to join Adarsh Art school that Tiya really blossomed as an artist. Starting with crayons, she moved to watercolours and graduated to oils. While twelve of the paintings on display are oils, Tiya insists that watercolours are still her forte. "I love landscapes and can get a realistic effect when I am using watercolours", she explains. Sure enough, the unanimous theme of her works is the diversity of nature. At first glance the swaying coconut palm against an azure sky and sapphire ocean could easily be a common subject picked by a child. But Tiya's works are marked by a technical sophistication uncommon among children her age. Her brushwork is both strong and contained so that she paints with a flourish and a freedom. "She is learning well and fast", says noted artist C.N.Karunakaran.

Also on display were some of her glass paintings. The pieces de resistance however were four large oils at the entrance. A painting depicts a woman reclining on a couch as she reads a novel. Rendered in soft pastel shades the composition is jam-packed, the mantelpiece heaving with showpieces. Undoubtedly a copy of European artists, but Tiya is emphatic that these are not simple imitations. She has no qualms about jettisoning parts of compositions and replacing them with her own. In another picture, the rainbow is dismissed in favour of a mountain. "I have brought about changes wherever I have felt the requirement. I consult my teacher before I do that." And that's exactly what her classmates love about her work. Says Nithila, "Her works are imaginative and the colour combination is very appealing." Passionate about painting, Tiya has her life charted out. "I will be an artist when I grow up." Well, she's already one.

SUNANDA KHANNA

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