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Monday, Nov 17, 2003

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Sensitising YOUNG minds


WHEN FATHER James Madathikandam, Director of Chavara Cultural Centre, approached him it was a request Ramachandran Nair found hard to turn down. Between the Ramzan celebrations and a programme to observe World Diabetes Day scheduled on his weekly calendar, Father Madathikandam wanted to include an art exhibition. Would the Chitram Art Gallery bring part of its collection and hold it on display on his premises? While the sales may not be much it would be assured of a large audience, he promised.

Father Madathikandam has a single-pointed objective: bring culture and art to the students and make them aware of their role in society. The experiment has obviously paid off because at the inauguration 300 plus students turned up, arguably the largest gathering of viewers the city's galleries have seen so far. The hall where the paintings were displayed doubles as a library and so the uninitiated could get a peek at the haloed world of art even as they could pore over magazines and books. However, the space is just that: a hall and not a gallery. Paintings were not mounted on the walls; instead they were kept on makeshift stands made up by pushing tables against the wall.

Not much concern had gone into the lighting factor or on the placement of these objects of art. Moreover, the paintings were old, coming as they did from Chitram's archives.

In fact, artist V. B. Venu could not recall the picture that was exhibited, though his trademark transparency in the application of colours was present. His virtuosity lies in the excellence of his craft and the unusual themes that he picks; there's an underlying narrative in the women who surround the black cow.

Venu is currently working on larger canvases and developing a series that he says is based on romantic surrealism. Kodankandath, who was recently in the news for unveiling his work of art based on Mother Teresa, was represented here by Cross, again an older work of this celebrated artist. His scheme of abstraction and his love for colours, however, cut across the time barrier.

Not far from the Cross, were two murals depicting very Hindu themes done by Saju Thuruthil and another by Pratheesh Odakkali. Father Madathikandam is particular that his students inculcate a feeling of secularism and often organises inter-faith meets at the Centre.

Watercolours such as one by Dhanish, that emblazons Kochi's cherished landscape abound. Waterways, canals, boat jetties or simply sitting by the side of an over-bridge are some themes that generate a sense of calmness and quiet in the viewer.

The exhibition achieved what it had set out to do: sensitising young minds and giving them an insight into the artist's mind. Now there might just be a greater following at art exhibitions in town.

S. K.

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