Kerala-based Suresh K. Nair created 4,500 miniature paintings during the lockdown
In November 2019, Suresh K. Nair was leaving London for Lisbon when he encountered a passenger at Heathrow Airport. His walk caught his attention and he decided to draw it. “Someone in their mid-forties, and apparently a dancer. Such an incredible cadence in his sashay! Nair remembers. “I wanted to draw it, but I didn’t have any paper with me.”
So the artist took out a business card and started drawing on his back. Arriving in the Portuguese capital, Nair bought some handmade paper and “cut them into pieces the size of a matchbox, not realizing that this was going to be the start of a long series of art. minimalist, ”says Nair, who teaches painting at the Hindu University of Banaras. (BHU). “Today, I have over 4,500.”
The number is significant; it refers to the village of Nair in Palakkad, the Vellinezhi River, which has about 4,500 families. “I plan to visit each house and donate a work of art. This will be in addition to my continuous efforts to popularize visual art among ordinary people, ”said the 50-year-old, a former student of Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal and the Guruvayur Institute of Mural Painting. .
Vellinezhi’s civic body warmed up at the initiative and expanded finances as part of a government program for the national promotion of culture.
Since 2019, Nair is constantly working on his miniatures. “Initially, the images had no background color. But later I started spraying colors on it after I sketched, ”says Nair. His process had changed for two reasons.
One of them was COVID-19. Nair developed a terrible cough and shortness of breath. “My wife and two daughters had just left for Kerala and I was alone in my quarters. To ward off loneliness and fears of death, I focused all the more on my miniatures. My state of mind changed the painting process.
Art by Suresh K. Nair
The second reason was a sudden downpour in the middle of summer. Nair had hung his works of art to dry in long rows on the balcony. Raindrops splashed on them, and he decided to make this effect a feature of his work. “I felt that my work also documented the clouds and the sky of Varanasi. “
Nair is a strong advocate of public art. “I became aware of its importance during my studies at Santiniketan (1995-2002). I liked the Tagorean concept of bringing art closer to the man in the street, ”he says. This spirit is manifested in Nair’s “Wall of Peace”, an outdoor work, produced in association with 15 students in early 2019, on 14 panels over 7,000 m², on the fence of a public school in Cherpulassery.
Nair’s first inspiration came from two temples in his neighborhood in Adakkaputhur, with their classical frescoes. This led him to Kerala’s first mural painting institute, after a two-year course at the Silpachitra College of Fine Arts in Pattambi. “Making murals in cloisters is one thing, and public art is another,” says Nair.
He experiments with this idea in various ways. One of them is to paint at gatherings where a music recital takes place. “I do it in Benaras; painting in places hosting Sufi or Hindustani concerts. In a way, they’re a repeat of what I did in the 1990s – watching Kathakali shows and drawing the characters on stage. “
Artwork by Suresh K. Nair
“Such meetings may seem repetitive, but they have a therapeutic effect,” explains the artist. “No wonder, my latest miniatures feature what Natyasastra classifies as the 108 karanas (brief movements of the body, accompanied by hand gestures).”
The writer is an avid follower of the Kerala performing arts.