The residency was inaugurated by the esteemed artist, N N Rimzon, presided over by the Secretary of Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, N Balamuralikrishnan in the presence of Tom J Vattakuzhy – Executive member, KLA, T R Manoj – President, Kilimanoor Grama Panchayath, Kottara Mohan Kumar – Ward member and Latha Kurian Rajeev – General Council Member, KLA. A humble ceremony that took off with a workshop with children from the local school.The highlight, for me, was the after-interaction we had with N N Rimzon, Tom Vattakuzhy and Latha Kurian Rajeev. It was a delight to hear their insights. N N Rimzon spoke at length about his travels, materials and memories, about national and international art, leading to a full-fledged conversation about European art and its imitation happening in Asia. Regional and aboriginal art, African art, Pop art, Bengal and Madras school, folk art and political art et al. continued in our conversations. Such engaging dialogues feed onto my senses.
|Above: Esteemed artist N N Rimzon at the Inaugural address, Seated (L to R - Kottara Mohan Kumar, T R Manoj, N Balamuralikrishnan, Tom J Vattakuzhy, Latha Kurian Rajeev)|
Below: an engaging conversation
The residency space is in the same compound of Raja Ravi Varma Gallery in Kilimanoor next to the RRV Boys School. The gallery is quite famous in the vicinity but one would be disappointed since it holds only prints of Raja Ravi Varma. If you are keen to see some originals, you need to travel to Sri Chithra Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram.
The high-ceiling, double-storied traditional space can house up to six artists on a twin-sharing basis on the upper floor. It has a common living space and a storeroom next to the bedrooms while kitchen, dining and caretaker’s space is on the lower floor. A beautiful structure amid trees and a rubber plantation behind which connects to the school ground. The premise also houses a stage and an amphitheater, which functions as gallery seating.
Each room is cozily located with a pair of beds, side tables, tables, chairs and cabinets all in lovely Rubco dark wood. The ceiling is quite high and well-ventilated. The four-panelled window in the room opens into the rubber plantation. The air was quite breezy this time of the year; it was raining quite profusely some of the days!
The only drawback, for now, is the lack of studio space. The Akademi mentioned that the facility would be opened soon.
Another major highlight was the scrumptious food they served every day with love. The Chief Chef, Aradhana with Aneesha, her assistant under the supervision of Mohanettan, took extra care to make delicious and fresh food at every mealtime. Meals matter!
We were five artists from different domains. R B Shajith and Smitha Shajith, the husband-wife duo as mentioned earlier, are artists from Kannur and Kollam respectively. Biji Bhaskar is from Muvattuppuzha, Abdulla from Thrissur, the youngest of our lot and yours truly from Palakkad/Dubai. Shajith – the measured-thinker, Smitha – peals of laughter, Biji – master of witty punch lines, Abdu – the over-thinker-laugh-instigator and I was probably the listener-observer!
We connected almost immediately. I had met Biji and Smitha earlier but they were only acquaintances until the residency. We entered into seamless conversations and discussions and our interactions were one of the cherished moments!
Now, I need to dwell on my fellow artists-residents a little longer. Each one of us is different in our practice, evidently. While I meander in mine as I mull over, reflect, watch, observe, and move at a slow pace, I saw another extreme at Shajit’s end. The rest of us looked at ‘his quarter’, jaw-dropped! He is a speed-painter and created the most works. His technique requires that pace for the abstraction he is adept at it. They are large-scale works intensely inviting into their rural scenarios; an environment he is familiar with, something that dwells around him or rather he dwells in it.
Biji is quite a detailer, his works otherworldly and his images have an earnest impact on the viewer. His colour palette is fascinating too, adding to its whimsical element. He draws inspiration from his immediate environment just like Shajit only to take on an unreal facet. He has a finesse that adds a dramatic quality to his strokes that comes from experience.
For Smitha Babu, theater is an integral part and that reflects in her works. Her themes imbue the sense of stage and the actors, the characters who inhabit the limelight and sometimes outside the limelight. Her palette is interesting too particularly the neon pink that brings light onto her canvas. Women abound in her world as well. One of the jolly lots, her laugh is infectious!Abdulla a.k.a Abdu, our sweet brother is a non-conformer as his age demands – a Gen Z. Questions abound which resulted in both of us having some of the most interesting conversations. I wish I had a Dictaphone! That would have made amusingly candid episodes all by itself. Abdu’s mode of work is in phases – an outburst of spurring creativity and a space of linear-ticking thoughts. Questions like Who am I? Why am I? What is art? Why is art? thrive. A genius with materials, his works reflect their nuances just as his thoughts. Be it rust inking his paper, oil on his rusted metal plates or his digital collages. The only glitch is the persistent doubt he carries.
|Above: R B Shajith, Smitha Shajith, Deepa Gopal, Biji Bhaskar, Abdulla P A|
The residency was for the duration of one month from 02 Oct to 02 Nov 2022.
Speaking about the highlights of this residency, we had complete liberty be it regarding the theme, the number of works or anything else; we were on our own. Personally speaking, this freedom gave us time for introspection, reflection, research and experimentation with subjects. I tried a couple of subject matters that had been on my mind for some time. Larger part of my works were small studies.Remarkable supplements during the residency were the morning/evening walks we took. Each night after dinner, we played an art documentary, an Oscar-winning foreign language film, a Chaplin movie, and a couple of times some no-brainer for comic relief. We all shared a collective consciousness at this point and that was something that awed as well as humbled and linked us.
The silent Squad
Shijith, the overseer from the Akademi, was with us for two weeks ready to help us with whatever we needed. He used to sketch, watch movies and documentaries with us. Babuettan was extremely helpful in every aspect.
Mohanettan was one of the prominent persons in this residency. His promptness, organization and care to detail were vivid. A father-figure, he made sure that everything was done on time and that probably was one of the reasons for the smooth functioning of matters. He also cooked for us in between and his cuisine is delish! Aradhanachechi, the chief chef, I have to reinforce is an excellent cook. Mahesh spoke sparsely but functioned efficiently with materials and matters, always around to help.
The securities, Shareef and Kurupchettan, were people to remember too. The fun, the frolic, and the warmth each one of them spread helped us in our stay making it cozy and comfortable. They are the silent squad who are vital for a project to work efficiently. The people around the residency space too, have so much love, affection, warmth, and care to provide.
|L to R - Kurupchettan, Mohanettan, Abdulla P A, Deepa Gopal, Smitha Shajith, Biji Bhaskar, R B Shajith, Mahesh, Aneesha, Aradhana|
|Above: L to R (foreground): N Balamuraliktishnan, Tom J Vattakuzhy, Latha Kurian Rajeev, N N Rimzon, Babumon|
Below: Shijith, R B Shajith, Biji Bhaskar, Sri Biju Raja Varma, Abdulla, Deepa Gopal, Smitha Shajith
As promised, we all contributed a work of ours to the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi at the end of our residency. Along with that work, we also submitted most of our works as requested by the Akademi awaiting an exhibition as mentioned. Hopefully, we will all be getting an opportunity to meet soon.
|Deepa Gopal, Aji V N, Smitha Shajith, Abdulla P A, Biji Bhaskar, R B Shajith|
Last but not the least; I would also like to thank the renowned artist, Aji V N, who spent a day with us. Aji put forward a slide presentation of all his major works explaining in detail his thoughts, travels, reads, colour palette, framing, et al. It was illuminating and enriched us.
Thank you Kerala Lalithakala Akademi!