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CIMA Gallary

The many colours of Kerala

The geographical location of Kerala ensures that it is green and abundantly hydrated, giving rise to its popular sobriquet — God’s own country — a sobriquet that has turned into a cliché. In CIMA Gallery’s exhibition titled, Between Darkness & Magic, Examining the Kerala Metaphor, being opened by the governor, M.K. Narayanan, on Friday evening, the state appears lush in its verdant luxuriance in paintings which reference it.

But, as in the rest of the country and world, this paradisiacal nature is under threat, and human beings are entirely to blame for its devastation.

This more than anything sums up the collective concern of this group 35 artists ranging from the late K.C.S. Paniker (1911-1977), the illustrator, K.M. Vasudevan Namboodiri (born in 1925), and K.G. Subramanyan (born in 1924), Manida to most ever since he started teaching in Santiniketan, to artists like Sruthi E.V. born in 1986. There are recent cartoons as well by Abdul Saleem N.S. and a video by Gigi Scaria. Although this exhibition is not meant to be an overview of contemporary art in Kerala in the post-Ravi Varma era, it certainly gives viewers a fairly good idea of the “Kerala Metaphor” as the comprehensive catalogue has chosen to describe it.

It is a rich show with Sanam C.N.’s strange vision of a cataclysm, Madhu V’s elegant and structured work, sculptor N.N. Rimzon’s folksy acrylic painting that holds surprises and Sebastian Varghese’s picture of Ancestral Land crawling with fossils and seeds of life. Manu Binny George explores myths and present-day realities in his horizontal paintings.

Three participants are here for the opening — Ajaykumar, a practising artist and principal of the Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts, Mavelikkara, Alappuzha, who has contributed an essay to the catalogue, Bahulayan C.B. of Thrissur, and Ponmani Thomas of Mahe.

Ajaykumar’s large canvas titled Wealth of Nations — V “Santhal Family” is a dystopian vision of an urban-industrial setting with Ramkinkar’s famous sculpture floating, as it were, in the foreground. He explained it was for him an allegory of how development leads to “genocide”.

Ponmani’s focus is on colour application, while Bahulayan, who had witnessed the Iraq war, creates fascinatingly detailed war machines amidst vast wastelands. His work connects the past with the present underscoring continuity of traditions. The exhibition will continue till January 5.