Kochi: Seven Keralite artists, representing different genres, mark the host state's place in contemporary art at the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale here.
Hailed as diverse and matching with international standards by curator Sudarshan Shetty, the works include drawings, sculptures, cartoons, photographs and architecture.
While the choice of artists who have left their imprints on media like drawing and painting seems to be quite natural, Shetty has taken some unexpected steps in his selection process by bringing in a few names which one may not expect in an art jamboree.
Of them is writer Anand, who is undoubtedly one of India's leading public intellectuals and has left his solid and distinct mark on Malayalam fiction. Anand takes the avatar of a sculptor in the third edition of the Biennale, presenting the vast collection of terracotta works he had done over the years. While E.P. Unny's political cartoons published in a leading national daily compose a large text of contemporary Indian politics, the Biennale pavilion built by noted architect Tony Joseph functions as an art venue and artwork simultaneously.
Take a look at the works of Malayali artists in KMB 2016
Map Makers and Map Breakers: Space to time along the maps - sculptors by Anand
It is not an unknown fact that Anand is as flexible with terracotta as he is with words. However, for the Malayali psyche, he is ultimately an author who is the voice of humanity that challenges all forms of authoritarian structures and injustice. Anand's terracotta sculptors exhibited at Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi, seem to be an extension of his wide range of fiction and non-fiction which explores the past and interprets the present.
In Shetty's words, Anand's works which are reminiscent of ancient times problematize what is traditional and what is contemporary.
Business as usual: Cartoons by E.P. Unny
Placed in two rooms of Aspinwall House, Unny transforms his large collection of cartoons published in the front page of The Indian Express under the title "Business as Usual" over the years into a single body of exhibit and thus a text of contemporary Indian politics in tiny strokes. The newspapers presented as they are place the cartoons in the immediate contexts in which they were drawn.
The choice of Unny's works as an exhibit at KMB stand testimony to the ways the event looks at art from a perspective of celebrating plurality. It also tries to blur the lines between various forms of drawing and thus challenge the perceived superiority of painting and related genres.
Secret dialogues: Drawings by C. Bhagyanath
A seasoned painter and illustrator, C. Bhagyanath goes with his experiments in medium at KMB 2016. His multi-layered drawings on plastic sheets using charcoal portray different stages of human conditions and explore the conflicts between the human beings and the beasts within oneself. Bhagyanath's works showcased in Aspinwall House take and change shapes as the Biennale passes each day. The process of creation becomes a part of the works as the artist continues with his work at the venue.
Photographs by K.R. Sunil
A series of black and white photographs by K.R. Sunil features the rich heritage of the northern Kerala city of Ponnani. The photographs sans colors are but rich with the values represented by the people portrayed in them. "More than those who leave the land, I could find those who stay there happily," says Sunil who is proud of a childhood enriched with stories from the past.
Parayi Petta Panthirukulam: Mural by P.K. Sadanandan
Believed to be the largest mural in India drawn using natural colors, P.K. Sadanandan's work features the legend of "Parayi Petta Panthirukulam" --the ancient story of Vararuchi, a Brahmin scholar who was destined to marry a Parayi, a low-cast woman. Employing traditional methods of murals, the work in 15 meter length and 3 meter height, reflects how caste hierarchy functioned in Indian society in the past and turns out to be a critique of the social evil which still prevails in society in various forms.
Highly narrative in nature, the work is still in progress and is expected to be finished along with the 108-day event. Sadanandan is assisted by three young artists in this giant creative endeavor.
Amazing Museums: Drawings by Bara Bhaskaran
An experienced illustrator, Bara Bhaskaran showcases a major portion of the works of a lifetime at Aspinwall House under the title Amazing Museums. The body of works, containing drawings, paintings and portraits, features places and people that the artist came across at various stages of his life.
The works include a painting of the tribes of Wayanad, sketches of various places in Kerala and Bihar and portraits of hundreds of important persons which he did as a staff artist of The Week. The works celebrate local identities but place themselves as part of the universe.
Biennale Pavilion by Tony Joseph
A celebrated architect, Tony Joseph has built the Biennale pavilion both as an artwork and the venue of several events held as part of the art extravaganza The pavilion located in Cabral Yard near Aspinwall House is an amalgamation of ancient and modern techniques in architecture. It carries traits of traditional Kerala houses, kalaris (training grounds of kalarippayattu), and godowns of Mattanchery, the ancient port town. The use of arecanut trunks for the gallery and other Eco-freindly methods keep the pavilion a cool hub. The roof ceiling made by sarees collected from the locality offers a visual treat with the changing light patterns.