The unforgiving afternoon sun flits through the trees, as small groups trickle into the expansive Cholamandal Artists’ Village, hoping to catch a glimpse of what makes the village exclusive. A hotbed of arts, the self-governing establishment, set up by KCS Paniker in 1966, is caught in a time warp — away from the noise of the city, predominantly housing artists who live in a world of motifs. Save a few new buildings and roads, not much has changed — for instance, the open air theatre, now brimming with fallen leaves, still houses the stone sculpture of the family riding a two wheeler, by Vasudevan Namboodiri.
Today, the roads that branch out into galleries and residences, are lined with construction debris. But this doesn’t deter the students, art connoisseurs and families, who devote their weekend to meet veteran artists whose works often surface in the city’s gallery spaces as part of Open Studios. Anyone is welcome into their workspaces and homes — as artworks and sculptures flank the studio, their creator is seen interacting with enthusiasts.
When I walk into sculptor P S Nandhan’s home, he is knee-deep in a conversation with a couple of art students, who listen to him intently. He tells them that perseverance and practice are what made his work what it is today. His crowded studio houses everything from paintings and sketches to sculptures. “I started off with paintings, but slowly, they translated into sculptures. You see, art is everywhere,” says Nandhan pointing to his Budhha series done in unbaked clay. A recurring motif, in his works, is that of intertwined human figures — this element resonates in his sculptures as well. An unfinished abstract work portraying an embrace, done in wood, is testimony to the same.
Artist Sailesh BO’s workspace, beyond the open air theatre, is a cocoon of colours. Outside the studio, hang small figurines — his signature representations of animal heads married to human bodies, in yogic poses. The same concept is translated into canvases, which are stacked inside the studio. A colourful palette and many brushes dipped in water, and an unfinished abstract painting, suggest that the artist had left the studio only moments ago. Meanwhile, S G Vasudev’s gallery space, in the same backyard, emanates a soft yellow glow. Apart from a few smaller works — some of them from his Rhapsody series — those on display are mostly in the form of merchandise such as mugs, coasters and notepads, which are also on sale.
The ground floor of Bhagwan and Prasida Chavan’s residence is replete with mini looms, wound on which are yarns of every colour; an indigo door mat is being woven. Upstairs is where artist Bhagwan works — his abstract pieces, earlier and others, adorn every wall on the top floor. To the backdrop of a 1990s Hindi classic, guests stroll through, as if in a gallery. He admits that his latest works look different in terms of technique. “I would call this series a process. I used to do a lot with the drip technique, which has now changed to become more definite,” says Bhagwan. Blues, greens and blacks intertwine to form a grid of colours on his canvases.
An attempt to encourage dialogue within the community, Open Studios thus tries to subvert the notion that art and its creator should remain distanced from the viewer.