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The portrait of a painter

Now, he is concentrating on infusing innovations into his work.


HIS PENCHANT for Tanjore paintings has prompted him to attempt novel improvisations in his paintings, which have earned wide appreciation. Meet A. Malaichamy, a 33-year-old painter from the household of a farm labourer in Sholavandan.

It was very hard for his father V.Alagu to understand his son's ability to paint portraits. Malaichamy participated in many school-level drawing competitions and won prizes and to become a painter was his childhood dream.

With no one virtually to guide him in his school days, he went on his own. Even then, he was able to impress a good many. After an intense search, he met his first guide, M.Muthuramalingam, a former TVS employee, who was the driving force behind him.

Malaichamy spent two years (1986 and 87) under the tutelage of Mr.Muthuramalingam, from whom he learnt the nuances of painting. Immediately he started bringing all the knowledge he had gained from his teacher to bear on his work.

Obviously, the first he had done was a Tanjore painting of Lord Vinayaga measuring 6 feet by 4 feet. He had also started producing wax paintings.

"His exceptional skills have amazed me. Generally the subject for most of the Tanjore paintings revolved around Lord Krishna and Radha. But this painter has done a Tanjore painting of a Kathakali performer. The gait, the crown and the gold foil embossed with stones in the painting are a treat to watch," said N.Sulaiman, Regional Assistant Director, Department of Art and Culture.

"The `jarikai' art work and bangles are exquisitely done," he said.

Now, he is concentrating on infusing innovations into his work. He has done his painting on a `karuvelam' thorn and on eggshells. His painting of Lord Venkatachalapathy of Tirupati on a radish has earned accolades.

"I have conducted three exhibitions so far. The first exhibition was conducted at S.S.Colony in 1990, the second one at K.Pudur in 1992 and the third at Tirunagar in 1993. But, all these exhibitions were conducted in the city. Though I wanted to go all over the country, my financial position did not make me afford for such an extravagance," said Mr.Malaichamy.

"My younger brother, A.Theertham, is helping me out when I go out for taking orders. I wanted my children to become painters, and hence I am taking classes for my children to make them good painters," said Mr.Malaichamy.

The only solace for this `ninth standard' educated painter is the recognition he has got from the Madurai public and the acknowledgement of the Department of Art and Culture.

"I have now dedicated my time to painting and so it has been the only source of earning for me. Being a sole breadwinner of my family I am taking classes on painting and with the meagre money I have to make both ends meet," he said.

The prices of some of his Tanjore paintings range from Rs.3000 to Rs.1 lakh. "Though prices are little bit on the costlier side, the gold foil embossed on the painting and craftsmanship determines the price of the painting," he said.

"My paintings are adorning the halls of popular figures and some of my paintings have also been airlifted. It brings me a lot of satisfaction as at last I am able to reach out to the international community," said Mr.Malaichamy.

But what is his contribution for the aspiring poor children who wish to become painters? "For these children, I am conducting free exclusive painting classes during festival holidays and vacation period," he said.

"For the efforts I put in, what I get in return is meagre. The work demands a lot of concentration and some of my works are intricate in character consuming a lot of time. Sometimes it takes three months to complete," said Mr.Malaichamy.

Having established himself in the industry as a good painter, he is still waiting for a big break.

T.SARAVANAN

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