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.
|"We're Islands-Self Portraits" - IGNITE series-|
Deepa Gopal-Watercolour-15x15cm each-2020
|Sri Saji Cherian, Honourable Minister of Cultural Affairs, Kerala State|
|Welcome address by Sri Murali Cheeroth, Chairman, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi|
|When I was beckoned to Light the lamp|
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|
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|
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.
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.
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.
|With "We're Islands - Self Portraits"|
my Award-winning work
|Sri Murali Cheeroth, Chairman, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi|
|With my parents and Sri Balamuralikrishnan, Secretary, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi|
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|
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.