Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Winter Art Residency - A Milestone, First of its kind by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi for State Award Winners

The Travel

On short notice, I grabbed all things essential most of which were art related, pack my big bag as I intend to spend some days after the residency with my parents and depart to the airport on the warm night of 1 Oct. I was travelling alone, this time from Sharjah to Thiruvananthapuram. It was unusually crowded at the Sharjah airport. Reaching Thiruvananthapuram in the wee hours, I wait for a prepaid taxi. Kilimanoor is 40 minutes from the airport I was told; travelling to this part for the first time. I was in contact with Babuettan from the Akademi who advised me on how to reach there as well as a few general matters to take care of. Babuettan and Shijith, both Kerala Lalithakala Akademi (KLA) staff, were there to welcome and make us comfortable. Abdulla and Biji Bhaskar, two other residents, had reached the night before. Shajith and Smitha, the husband-wife duo, arrived after I reached.

Winter Art-Residency-Kilmanoor-Invite-HuesnShades


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.

Winter Art Residency Inaugural Function & Interaction-HuesnShades
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

Residency Space

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!

Winter Art Residency Space-Kilimanoor-HuesnShades
Photo: KLA

The Residents

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.

As for me, the feminine psyche and its attributes grip me. I tend to address them as "mindscapes"; an introspection into the emotional and psychological states. They deal with feminine states of being in one with the environment, reflective and surrealistic along with their internal and external struggles. Myths, dreams, visions, and people add to my interest.

Winter Art Residency-Residents-HuesnShades
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.

Winter Art Residency-Chitrasala-Kilimanoor Palace-HuesnShades

Winter Art Residency-Kilimanoor-HuesnShades

Winter Art Residency-Kilimanoor-HuesnShades

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.

Winter Art Residency-Team-Kilimanoor-HuesnShades
L to R - Kurupchettan, Mohanettan, Abdulla P A, Deepa Gopal, Smitha Shajith, Biji Bhaskar, R B Shajith, Mahesh, Aneesha, Aradhana

Winter Art Residency-Kilimanoor-HuesnShades
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.


Chairman & Secretary-Winter Art Residency-Kilimanoor-HuesnShades

One of the pillars of this residency, obviously, is the Chairman, Sri Murali Cheeroth, who made it happen with the Secretary, Sri Balamuralikrishnan, and their entire team. To host such a residency is no small accomplishment. To offer a dedicated space to artists from different parts of Kerala, regional artists, to bring them together, spur interaction, and bring forth works is something extremely essential to the creative climate of any region. Such initiatives are necessary for not only the growth of the artists but also for the creative community as a whole. It sends the message that art and artists are fundamental and our contributions are valued in society. It is the embrace that each artist awaits in his/her/their career. I wish and hope that many more artists receive such opportunities to help achieve their path and make way for their aspirations.

Eminent artist Aji V N at Winter Art Residency-Kilimanoor-HuesnShades
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!


Winter Art Residency-Kilimanoor-Residency Moments-HuesnShades

Friday, September 16, 2022

Khaleej Modern: Pioneers and Collectives in the Arabian Peninsula

How did art evolve in the Arabian Peninsula? What was the journey like? Who were the architects of this evolving art world? What started the different movements and where has it reached? This exhibition is a treatise, a study of these queries.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Preview of Khaleej Modern: Pioneers and Collectives in the Arabian Peninsula. Thanks to Arte & Lusso, the online magazine and Slava Noor, the Editor of the magazine. I must say that this is definitely a landmark exhibition with some rare and never before seen works of prominent artists from the West Asian region. It surveys the emergence of modern art in the Arabian Gulf featuring 57 artworks from the early and mid-20th century through 2007. The exhibition includes works from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, a region collectively known in Arabic as the “Khaleej.”

The Exhibition that opened on 6 September at the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery is definitely one of a kind in recent times that explores, examines and expands our horizons in relation to the visual arts of the Arabian Gulf. Dr. Aisha Stoby with Assistant curator, Tala Nassar from the NYUAD Art Gallery and the Chief Curator of NYUAD, Maya Allison have achieved formidable feet with this path-breaking exhibition. It is curated by Dr. Aisha Stoby, who helmed the inaugural Oman Pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year.

The exhibition is based on Dr.Aisha Stoby’s Ph.D. research that commenced in 2015 as she traces and maps the evolution as well as the history of art through prominent pioneers and collectives, their definitive movements in the region’s visual art history basically the emergence of the art scene in the Arabian Peninsula. It’s extremely interesting to note that this young researcher and curator has already spent some valuable years in the study and outlining the development of almost a century. She points out the influx of teachers travelling to the region and students studying abroad which brought in a novel perception and consideration. Some of the works are on view for the first time.

Installation view of Khaleej Modern: Pioneers and Collectives in the Arabian Peninsula. “Early Pioneers” and “The Landscape” sections. Photo: John Varghese

Maya Allison- Chief Curator of NYUAD Art Gallery, Dr.Aisha Stoby and Tala Nassar - Asst.Curator

Khaleej Modern documents the shift and journey of new art theories, diverse media and curatorial framework. The backdrop of the practice was changing socio-political tendencies and contexts, extreme industrial growth and modernization. The term “modern” however takes a different affinity from European Modernism in the context of the Arabian Gulf.

The layout of the exhibition is in four segments – Early Pioneers, Landscapes, Self-Representation and Portraiture, and The Conceptual Turn. Each section is crisp yet flows gradually into the next. It starts with the artists using traditional methods from the 1940s to 2007. It’s an ongoing conversation of tradition and modernity. It involves making art as well as contextualizing it. Dr. Stoby clarifies that ‘Pioneers’ are not only artists but also include founders, gallerists, mentors, teachers and collectives where these pioneers practiced.

The Four Segments:

Early Pioneers

This section has one of the oldest paintings in the exhibition obviously. It is a portrait by Mojid Al Dosari, one of the pioneers from Kuwait who went on to study at Al Mubarakiya School. Artists in this era include Ibrahim Ismail whose work is the chosen poster image that is quite experimental and encapsulates tradition and modernity beautifully. Another work portrays an atelier where the artist presents himself painting a model and one can see the European influence and a cosmopolitan outlook present there. Mohammed Racim, one of the Turkish artists who held an exhibition in Jeddah was believed to be funded by a local Bank in the early 1950s. His illustrative works are again a mix of both tradition and modernity. Munira Al Kazi is another notable and outstanding artist of this period. They were founders and initiators of the day.

Building of Ships by Ibrahim Ismail, 1966
Oil on canvas board, 30 x 40 cm, courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah


The focus in this segment is not just on the practice of architecture and landscape painting but on evolving and developing landscapes, particularly with the discovery of oil as a prominent resource. It is also about documentation, preservation, heritage and watching the shifts around them. The key artists are Ahmed Qassim Al Sunni, one of the first to receive an art scholarship from the Bahraini Government to study art in London. Along with artists like Nasser Al-Yousif and Abdul Karem Al Orrayed, Ahmed Sunni formed the “Manama Group” which met every Friday to paint the landscapes. Their style had a European influence but they focused on Bahraini landscapes. Ahmed Sunni was also the first to develop a school curriculum that became the basis of the art schools in Bahrain. Mohammed Saleem found an exhibition space where many of the artists from the exhibition had exhibited back in the day. He also coined the term “Horizonism” – taking colours and textures to emulate landscapes. Yousef Ahmad was responsible for the beginnings of the Mathaf Collection of modern art, among many other things. The other notable collective of the period is the “Three Friends” in which Yousef Ahmad was a prominent part. Many collectives and fine art societies blossomed strengthening the local art ecosystem during this period.

Old Architecture of Manama by Ahmed Qassim Al Sunni, 1960,
Oil and jute on wood, courtesy of Bahrain National Museum

Self-Representation and Portraiture

This segment is an ongoing conversation between concepts of the individual and the society, and tradition and modernity. Socio-political impact on the artistic output is strikingly visible. Along with the presence of many themes, it looks at different artistic mediums and how they were processed. A time that reflected both private and public spaces. Along with Mounirah Mosly, Safeya Binzagr pioneered in painting and exhibition. They had their one of a kind first public art exhibition in Saudi Arabia in 1968. Safeya Binzagr was the first woman in Saudi Arabia to have had a solo exhibition. Later she opened her own museum, again a first, Darat Safeya Binzagr. Her works dwell on traditions, intimate space and portraiture almost as an act of preservation. Mosly’s environment captured a constant flux of development and modernization. She also incorporated a range of materials in her diverse practice that was novel at the time. Thuraya Al Baqsami studied art in Russia and when she moved back, found that figurative painting had disappeared from the Kuwaiti art scenario. She was part of the GCC Art Friends’ Group that went against this wave. Her focus was on the lives and roles of Kuwaiti women. The Gulf War had a profound impact on the artist. Her work “Return from the village” is one that drew me in and I would have prolonged my stay in that village and would have loved to explore the place.

Al Zaboun by Safeya Binzagr, 1969
Acrylic and print on canvas, private collection

The Conceptual Turn

The final segment is not just a progression from one to another but it coincides with other dates, something that ran parallel; a period of introduction of new and different materials globally.

This section highlights the collectives “The Five” (modern and contemporary Emirati artists) and “The Circle” (a group of artists from Oman). Hassan Sharif is a major figure and there are references to his notorious One Day Exhibition held at his Mreijah Atelier in Sharjah. He is also the co-founder of Emirates Fine Arts Society. “Silsilat al Ramad”, the artists’ book by the short-lived Aqwas (“Arches” named after Sharif’s Arch-shaped works) Group that includes Hassan Sharif, Nujoom Alghanem, Khalid Albudoor and Yousef Khalil is on display. “My Mother’s Letters” by Abdullah Al Saadi is a work I was drawn to for its emotional element. This is a series of objects that his mother who couldn’t write left at his studio door to let him know that she had visited while he was away. The artist was a part of the group known as “The Five.” “The Circle” from Oman was founded by Hassan Meer whose installation “Under the Water” can be seen here. The collective focused on how to interpret spirituality using forms that one normally wouldn’t expect. Mohammed Kazem, Mousa Omar, Anwar Sonya, Budoor Al Riyami are other notable artists in this section. The artists were not only responsible for introducing and championing new artistic practices in the local communities but were also founding avenues through which this art could be studied, viewed and understood.

My Mother's Letters by Abdullah Al Saadi, 1998-2013
mixed media, courtesy of the artist

Khaleej Modern is a learning curve and a long overdue path-breaking exhibition for it could be a starting point to learn and have a deeper understanding of the times bygone in the art ecosystem of the Arabian Peninsula. Dr. Stoby anticipates that the exhibition will be a point to take forward the conversation in understanding the art scene and help in the wider reach and awareness of the times, the context and the changes – a reassessment and study of sorts. The people, the places, the process and even the patterns are a road map, a study of the past is essential to travel and evolve in the future.

Installation view of Khaleej Modern: Pioneers and Collectives in the Arabian Peninsula.“The Conceptual Turn” section. Photo: John Varghese

Exhibition Dates: Sep 6 to Dec 11, 2022
Venue: NYUAD Art Gallery, Abu Dhabi
Time: 12 to 8 pm (Mondays closed)

photo: yours truly unless specified otherwise

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Kerala Lalithakala Akademi Annual State Awards and Exhibition 2021 and The Covid Series

The Evening

On a warm and humid evening, like any other evening, I was in Kochi after a span of two and half years breathing a familiar air in one of my favourite places in Kochi where I had exhibited several times before. This time it was different in ways I couldn’t imagine as I was receiving my first ever State Award – Honourable Mention Award – in a grand ceremony from Sri Saji Cherian, Honourable Minister of Cultural Affairs, Kerala State and many other dignitaries, creatives, friends and family.

After Covid lockdown and everything going under as far as the public and social events was concerned, this was a revival of art. The celebration of art was two-fold as this was the 50th year of the State Award and Exhibition and 60 years since the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi’s inception.

Award Winning Work - We're Islands-Self Portraits-IGNITE series-Deepa Gopal-Watercolour-15x15cm each-2020-HuesnShades
"We're Islands-Self Portraits" - IGNITE series-
Deepa Gopal-Watercolour-15x15cm each-2020

Sri Saji Cherian, Honourable Minister of Cultural Affairs, Kerala State -HuesnShades
Sri Saji Cherian, Honourable Minister of Cultural Affairs, Kerala State 

Welcome address by Sri Murali Cheeroth, Chairman, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi-HuesnShades
Welcome address by Sri Murali Cheeroth, Chairman, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi

Lighting the lamp-HuesnShades
When I was beckoned to Light the lamp

The Stage

The ceremony was moved to a bigger space, unlike the previous years, in the presence of a larger crowd and a grander arrangement. The center stage of the Award ceremony was impressive in its scale with the white typography of this year’s title covering most of the backdrop on a grey palette. Minimal décor with some clustered flowers in the foreground that soothed the eye.

The Chairman, Sri Murali Cheeroth (Read interview Part 1 and Part 2), with a strong vision had put his best foot forward with the Secretary, Sri Balamuralikrishnan, and their steadfast team. The changes were impressive and gladly visible in each and every detail as well from the way the staff was dressed to the display of all the artworks that were in sync with the white and mounted frames. The noticeable one is the entry of New media into the esteemed gallery. The memento had undergone a makeover as well. We were presented with the title-printed tote bags, the stunning catalogue and a plant (yes, a plant. I think it’s a beautiful gesture – a symbol of growth, prosperity and going green and sustainable).

Having a different vantage point from the stage was unique and sharing it with esteemed guests par excellence was a cherished and memorable experience.

Receiving the Honourable Mention Award from Sri Saji Cherian, Honourable Minister of Cultural Affairs, Kerala State -HuesnShades
Receiving the Honourable Mention Award from Sri Saji Cherian, Honourable Minister of Cultural Affairs, Kerala State 

The music by violinist Sabaressh Prabhakar and folksy fusion by the music band ReSatrippin’ was an incredible treat and delight.

Violinist Sabareesh Prabhakar and ReSaTrippin' singer, Resmi Satheesh-HuesnShades
Violinist Sabareesh Prabhakar and ReSaTrippin' singer, Resmi Satheesh

The Jury

The jury was led by the internationally recognized artist Prabhavathi Meppayil and included renowned artists like Manisha Parekh, Atul Bhalla, Babu Eshwar Prasad and Aziz T M.

The Exhibits

I found some amazing works in this year’s exhibition as well, obviously. All the Award-winning works were a treat to the senses and so were many others exhibited there. I can only imagine the Jury’s plight! It definitely was an inspiration galore for me.

Each work is a journey – of not only the artist but also of the viewer and they correlate, coerce and collide at instances forming a bond and that is what each artist looks forward to. A path that perhaps leads on to other paths or at times a cul de sac (a dead end) and even the story remains.

The new media was a whole new category rightly included to suit the current times in the exhibition but unfortunately, I couldn't see that part of the exhibition and I had to travel back the next day.

My Work

I received the Honourable Mention Award for “We’re Islands – Self Portraits” (a series of 10 paintings), my mindscapes. They present distinct, dreamlike, introspective-emotional states or mindscapes - a term that I coined to call my paintings that portray the feminine psyche from a strong female presence and perspective. It deals with feminine states of being in one with the environment, contemplative and surrealistic along with their internal and external struggles. My works feature dreams, visions, myths, memories, people, their tales, emotions and unbridled feelings to form different layers. I suffer from fibromyalgia and the pain speaks in some layers.  In a society that is consumed by fake realities, we are prone to alienation and a feeling of otherness even among our own. Women being ‘emotional nomads’ we navigate adapting ourselves through various circumstances just to survive. My protagonists create parallel realms - a refuge and value detachment and solitude amid ‘an environment.’

"We're Islands - Self Portraits" was part of the IGNITE-from within the confines- that I curated during the pandemic in 2020. If you had been following my works, you may remember that.

"We're Islands - Self Portraits" my Award-winning work-HuesnShades
With "We're Islands - Self Portraits"
my Award-winning work

With my parents - Visalakshi and Gopalakrishnan, and my brother, Dileep Gopal-HuesnShades
With my parents - Visalakshi and Gopalakrishnan, and my brother, Dileep Gopal

Sri Murali Cheeroth, Chairman, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi-HuesnShades
Sri Murali Cheeroth, Chairman, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi

With my parents and Sri Balamuralikrishnan, Secretary, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi-HuesnShades
With my parents and Sri Balamuralikrishnan, Secretary, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi

Stirring Interest

The works that stayed with me are Jayesh Barsati’s Soliloquy in Covid Time, watercolours of the husband and wife duo – Shajith and Smitha Babu, Untitled pen and ink works of Sudayadas, Rahul Balakrishnan’s Daily Life Circus – all State Award Winners, Biji Bhaskar’s Love Lives in the Village (V Sankaramenon Endowment Gold Medal), Akhil Mohan’s Rice Series 27, Abdulla P A’s Rusting Memories (both Honourable Mention), K S Anandapadmanabhan’s sculpture (Special Mention) and all the Award and Special mention works. The other works that piqued my interest were that of Sara Hussain, Tito Stanley, Blesson Bernard, G Unnikrishnan, Helna Merin Joseph, Anu Rajan, Sabitha Kadannappally, Aswathi Prakas, Anupama Alias, Sruthi S Kumar, Bijimol, Babitha Rajiv, Varghese Kalathil, Ameen Khalil, Rejani, Asokan Adipuredath, Meethu Mohan, Rajendran Pullur, Sarath K S, Sarundas Cherukattil, Shasna Majeed, Shilpa T K, P G Sreenivasan, Sreevalsan and Vishnu C S.

I did hear and see some reels on Instagram of the interesting new media works. I have to mention the increased participation of the students and the energy they exhibit is incredible. Kudos to the new and the young!

There are many more you can find once you visit Durbar Hall Art Gallery. Take your time and do visit.

Award winners and Dignitaries-HuesnShades
Award winners and Dignitaries

The Travel

I had been to Kochi just for the ceremony held on 25 April. The stay was arranged by the Akademi in a nearby hotel and delicious food was served behind the gallery itself in a makeshift serving area. I was back in Dubai on 26th by afternoon. So the whole process of travelling, staying, attending the ceremony, walking through the exhibition, meeting family and friends, getting to know new people and rushing back to Dubai all seemed like a dream. After reaching back, I did wonder whether it really did take place or was it something I conjured up.


The State Exhibition is on until 12 May 2022 at Durbar Hall Art Gallery, Kochi. Please do visit and leave your feedback through comments. Click a selfie with the artworks and post it on Instagram tagging the artist and the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

"When the wild beckons" - Art of Endangered species and Wildlife by Animalier Rachel Gray

Rachel Gray is a British Artist who specializes in wildlife portraiture. Rachel has always been drawn to animals and art from a very young age. Her admiration and love of animals have led her to wildlife conservation, and she is committed to using her work to raise awareness of endangered species from around the globe. With this goal in mind, Rachel has worked with charities such as the WWF and has collaborated with the British High Commission, COP26 “Together for Our Planet” (2021), Namibian High Commission and Expo 2020 Dubai.

"I live for colour and animals, so combining them both is just brilliant!"

Wildlife calls Rachel Gray to her bosom from where births her magnificent portraits of the wild. She also paints pets. Her animals are lifelike and look ready to spring to life from her screen. Her digital rendition that mimics oil painting is full of life and Painter is a tool that gives her that provenance to capture the interesting, intriguing facets of animals and their environment. Rachel captures her own photographs and uses them as a reference. She has travelled extensively from the dunes of Namibia to the rainforests of Malaysia, she has slept under the stars and riverbeds. She feels that one must capture these animals in their own habitats to observe them at their best – to capture their true personality, soaking up the colours, details, behaviours and surroundings. Raising awareness about endangered species has always been one of the hallmarks of Rachel’s works.

Rachel Gray-Wildlife Art-Endangered Species-Malaysia-HuesnShades
Rachel Gray

Recently I had an appointment with Rachel at the Malaysian Pavillion where she was displaying her works during the sustainability week, particularly for this blog post. It was a short but inspiring conversation. With the backdrop of the wooden panels of the pavilion and the green around it was a perfect setting.

“I’m always thinking about art be it mine or someone else's.”

Focus-Rachel Gray-Wildlife Art-Endangered Species-Malaysia-HuesnShades
Focus - Rachel Gray

Rachel, however, doesn’t strive for photorealism. Her aim is to convey their character and the moments they share. She creates the images on the tablet/computer using Wacom, which is touch, tilt and weight-sensitive tablet, and a stylus that simulates the texture of oil brushes for her works and uses the software Corel Painter.

“Painter is the best software that bridges the gap between traditional art and digital art, making it more accessible for traditional artists to make the crossover into the world of digital art.”

She was the first British female artist to have a solo exhibition, Instincts and Experiences’; a collection of digital wildlife portraits and abstract oil paintings, at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the gallery.

Rachel Gray - Wildlife Art-HuesnShades
Rachel Gray - Wildlife Art

Below is the video of the conversation I had with the immensely talented Rachel Gray who in spite of her hectic schedule took out some time and spoke to me. Here, Rachel Gray speaks about “Below the Canopy,” her exhibition that was showcased at the Expo2020, Malaysian Pavillion during Sustainability Week. 

watch this video to hear what Rachel has to say about her practice and more

You can reach Rachel Gray at:

Website: www.rgportraits.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachelgray.art/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rgportraits

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

When Art and Words Meet on Women's Day – SHE: A Creative Dialogue

Art and Literature have always been intertwined for ages. Though it can live, one cannot exist wholly without the other. They intersect at some point or some stage tugging the chords and embracing each other. It is such intersections that make the whole process and conjugation much more interesting and stimulating rather than the normal path.

One such intersection is about to happen on Mar 8 at Dusit Thani where art, conversation and high tea meet with a lovely author and eight UAE-based artists from various backgrounds. SHE is an expression of hues, shades and forms imbibed from the pages of the International journalist-best-selling author, Purva Grover’s latest book “She” which I recommend that all girls (for that matter, guys too) must-read. It is more an experience than a 212 pages book. When I read the book, it offered me the feeling of hearing a friend in conversation over a cup of coffee in a quaint café or chitchat on the living room couch over hot tea and snacks. The book itself as mentioned by the author can be treated like a handbook with spaces and pages for exercise or filling-ins.

The exhibition is curated by Slava Noor, Founder-Editor of Arte & Lusso Art Magazine. Ms. Noor wishes to open up a space for the creative dialogue that is one of the key ingredients for any creative communion. The saplings that sprout from such fertile soil are bound to hold the earth for favourable growth. What makes this particular art exhibition stand out is that the artworks have been created through conversations, enriching dialogue and exchange of ideas.

SHE - Poster - 8 Mar 2022

The Curator

Slava Noor - Curator-SHE

Slava Noor (@SlavaNoor

Slava Noor is passionate about various forms of art and believe in its power to inspire people and bridge different cultures. She has created Arte & Lusso in order to promote both local and international talent and help artists, fashion designers and other creatives get the exposure they deserve. She is also passionate about different cuisines and enjoys reviewing restaurants in Dubai and Europe.

Slava can be spotted at major art and fashion events as well as sipping her favorite karak tea or espresso at one of the hidden cafes in Dubai.

The Author

Purva Grover, India (@purvagr

Purva Grover-Author-SHE

Purva Grover is a best-selling author, international journalist & editor, TEDx Speaker, award-winning playwright & stage director, published poetess, spoken word artist, and creative entrepreneur. She is the founder-editor of The Indian Trumpet, a quarterly digital magazine for Indian expats, and works as the assistant editor with a UAE national daily, and editor, for a magazine for young adults. She is backed with a post-graduate degree in mass communication and literature. She resides in Dubai, UAE. 

She made her debut as an author with The Trees Told Me So(December 2017, Niyogi Books). Her second title, It was the year 2020 (February 2021, Kindle India) was instantly recognised for its profound pandemic prose. Her third title, She (August 2021, Ukiyoto) is currently making waves for its honest, relatable and fun approach on the topic of womanhood. 

Artists in Alphabetical Order

Abda Fayyaz-Artist-SHE

Abda Fayyaz, Pakistan (@artbyabda

Abda is a self-taught artist. Her work is the reflection of the understanding of the universe and the constant changes and transformations that take place within and around us.

With a Degree in Banking and Finance, she holds over 15 years of experience in brand development, marketing and advertising, strategy management and more.  Her main mediums are oil and acrylic mediums. From abstract paintings to calligraphy, the artworks represent a fusion of modern and contemporary art and traditional techniques. Abda’s art emphasizes the importance of finding our true purpose, and that each one of us is enough in our own capacities and that resources are always available if we have the right connection with our inner conscious, curiosity, energies and the holistic purpose of the universe. 


Christine Dessa-Artist-SHE

Christine Dessa, India (@cdessart

Christine Dessa is a self-taught artist of Indian origin, who has called Dubai her home for the last 25+ years. Art has been her passion since childhood. Decades of practice, self-learning and brush strokes later, she has evolved into the accomplished artist of today. She called herself a ‘closet’ artist, painting for her pleasure, experimenting with various mediums and techniques, while using her home as an art gallery. 

Combining real-life and symbolism together with the application of light, Christine Dessa allows her subjects to emote and have their own voice. She incorporates realism juxtaposed against fantasy as a means of storytelling, also allowing her viewers to connect with her art on a personal level.

Her forte is Watercolours Portraits, while her Horses and Oceans, require a special mention. Christine enjoys the beauty and magic of watercolours with its fluid dynamics and transparency. Working with this less forgiving medium has refined her painting skills a thousand-fold. She is also very skilled with Acrylics and uses this versatile and vibrant medium for her larger exhibition paintings on canvas.

Deepa Gopal - Artist - SHE

Deepa Gopal, India (@dee.huesnshades

Deepa Gopal is a visual artist-creative writer currently based in Dubai. Winner of 2021 ‘Artgram’ Award at the Orange Flower Awards, she conceptualized and curated her latest, brainchild – an online exhibition of art and poetry, ‘IGNITE-from within the confines-‘ (2020) inviting artists and poets from across the world. Author of the blog, Hues n Shades, she has done her Masters in English Language and Literature. Diversity is her forte as she loves to explore and experiment with various mediums and techniques. Most of her works are “mindscapes” as she calls them, an introspection into the emotional and psychological states. Her protagonists enjoy detachment; creating parallel worlds. Myths, dreams, visions, people and their tales, the emotions and the unbridled feelings kindle her creative juices. She sometimes couples her art with Haiku (Japanese poetic style) or micro-poems.

Fatema Fakhruddin, India (@notnotart__fathz/

Fatema Fakhruddin - Artist - SHE

As a person who always wears her heart on her sleeve, Fatema decided to bring her heart out onto her canvases and pursue her avant-garde artistic career in early 2020. Originally from India, she now lives in the UAE with her husband and two loving children. Known for her predominant use of bright and colorful acrylics, oils and other mediums, her paintings evolve through words and intended puns, which compliment her bold personality. All created in her home heart studio.

The intricacy of human nature, accepting and acknowledging one’s emotional, mental, and intellectual mindset being legitimate and powerful, is the never-ending source of her inspiration. Her artworks challenge the viewer to accept who they are. Portraying this through conceptual art, she thrives on evolving and developing her artistic process and continually learning. It allows her to communicate her emotions, which she otherwise struggles expressing. Her artworks are a visual diary into her being. 

Julia Smolenkova -Artist - SHE

Julia Smolenkova, Russia (@julia_smolenkova)

Julia Smolenkova is an international artist, publisher of two art magazines, galleries owner, Ph.D. in the field of the history of art and architecture, curator of international art projects, festivals, symposiums. In her artworks, the connection between the abstract and the real creates a new space level. Her success has been cemented with great demand from galleries in  Europe, the USA, Russia, UAE, Julia’s art is regularly purchased by enthusiasts globally. Her original pieces of sculptures and paintings can also be found in public and private collections, around the world as well as in the United Nations collection. Her monumental mosaics adorn the streets of Moscow. Her colorful paintings adorn the walls of hotels like Mandarin Oriental Jumeira in Dubai. Julia is an avid traveler and explores worldwide cities to acquire her inspiration, which results in the development of new collections that are exhibited regularly.

Poonam Chathurvedi (@c.poonam

Poonam Chathurvedi - Artist - SHE

Poonam is an Artist of Indian Origin and based out of Dubai, UAE since 2007. Over the years, Poonam has been a part of many major local, regional, and international exhibitions. Additionally, Poonam has also presented her work as a Solo Artist in a few prominent places including, Fakih University Hospital Dubai, Indian by Nature, Arte’s on several occasions. 

Sam, The Sassy Crayon - Artist - SHE

Samantha Lomas aka The Sassy Crayon (@the_sassy-crayon

The Sassy Crayon, is a UK-born, UAE-based artist, avid traveller and martini connoisseur. After graduating in Interior Architecture and Design, she has spent several years travelling, living in, and embracing, the cultures of South East Asia and Australia. No matter where she has been in the world, her love for art has not diminished. After several years in the business world, she decided it was time to turn to art full time. Her knowledge of interiors and design along with intense training through several top art institutions, enable her to create beautiful bespoke works of art for any environment.

Snehita Gehlot, India (@snehiart

Snehita Gehlot - Artist - SHE

Snehita is a Licensed Indian Artist (Painting) & Entrepreneur based in Dubai. She is a Visual Content creator for Art Magazine, Fashion and Art Brands, an IT Engineer (Website, graphic design, and digital products), an MBA and Director at Luxy Flare.

As an Artist, she believes ” Art is Experimenting Fearlessly ” No fear of judgement, and freely exploring the endless possibilities. She has always been a creative person since her childhood, she started learning and creating at a very early age as her mother is also an artist and art instructor.

Zumrud Zeynalli - Artist - SHE
Zumrud Zeynalli, Azerbeijan-UK (@zumrud_contemporary)

Zumrud Zeynalli is a contemporary artist who blends Eastern and Western cultures in her art that is also largely inspired by childhood fairy tales. 

Zumrud is a British artist born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1981 and developed a passion for art and craft at an early age. Living and working in London, United Kingdom allowed Zumrud to travel a lot and she visited 74 countries, explored unreal parts of the world and different cultures that widened her horizon and inspired her to create. Coming from a very caring family and society and moving to London, she has faced many challenges but learned how to become an independent woman. As a woman who leads a large company in the competitive and male-dominated oil field – she still got a chance to nurture her creative side and express herself through painting. 

“SHE” will be open to the public until March 30, 2022. The exhibition will take place at Dusit Thani Dubai located on  Sheikh Zayed Road.