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Decoding da Vinci

The works of self taught artist Francis Antony Kodankandath reveal his fascination for all things old



Looking beneath the layers: Francis Antony Kodankandath's study of Leonardo da Vinci's technique

THE NOVEL "Da Vinci Code" has upset some and intrigued others in recent times. Artist Francis Antony Kodankandath was upset and it led him to study da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper" as well as his technique. Francis says he found that the Renaissance master used four layers of paint starting from cream, burnt sienna, black and finally all the other colours, thus achieving a rare depth in his creations. In his paintings of the same picture, Francis has worked this process backwards. In his solo exhibition, organised by Kalayatra and Lakshana Museum of Aarts in the latter's premises (Judge Jambulingam Street, opposite Hotel President), there are six works of `The Last Supper' — one is a computer print of the original da Vinci painting; the others are drawings with the three steps of application of colours. One of them was selected in the Swarna Rekha exhibition of the Lalit Kala Akademi at Delhi last year.

How convenient it is with computer these days! Various software make it possible to play around with masterpieces — one can scramble them, make them look like stained glass works or jigsaw puzzles, get the outlines alone; the possibilities are numerous indeed! Even one's own works can be interpreted in this manner to give them a `contemporary look'.

Concern for the past

This self-taught artist has tried varied themes and styles as can be seen from the more than 60 works on show. He is obviously fond of old houses and cars. One interesting work is of an old faded group photograph of a family. Another one has an old house, an old car and a framed photograph of an elderly man — `Remembering Grandfather' — with a young woman's face in front. Also charming are a painting of an old car and another of his recently demolished office building in Calicut. One of Francis' paintings of the interior of a church seen with part of a stained glass window, and scaffolding for restoration work reveals his interest in things of the past.

He learnt music not for singing but for painting, he says and `Sa Re Ga Ma ..', according to him, represents the seven notes of Carnatic music through the seven colours of the rainbow — it was published on the back cover of Readers Digest.

`Colours of Festival', a jumble of bright hues in an abstract style, and `Thrissur Pooram', a vague indication of elephants and colourful decorated umbrellas, show some originality. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the planet series. These, Francis claims, represent the future, when planets would help each other with their own resources. These remind one strongly of science fiction illustrations in glossy journals in somewhat cloying hues.

Francis Antony Kodankandath is a recipient of a national award as well as two Kerala State Lalit Kala Akademi awards, besides a few `highly commendable' certificates. IIT Madras has a large mural by him and prestigious magazines have commissioned his work on special occasions. He has held solo shows in France and Italy, besides other major centres in India. The exhibition at Lakshana is on till May 9.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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