It is very difficult to find a place where you get good food, amazing locales to roam around and for an art enthusiast like me an opportunity to have a look at some of the amazing paintings, sculptures and other art work of the esteemed artists of the world. I am happy I can get this combination in a state that has become close to my heart.
Kerala known to the world as one of the top tourist destinations is increasingly turning into a cultural hub where people from across the globe turn to for healthy food options, unique handicrafts, and alternative health treatments and of course for enjoying the varied art forms of music and dance.
Kerala has hosted many art exhibitions, cultural programs and other intellectual events that have seen the attendance of many connoisseurs and enthusiasts from across the world. The Hay Festival of Kerala and Kochi-Muziris Biennale are some of the examples of how the state is scoring high in the global cultural space.
Talking about art, Kerala does not have a dearth of well maintained art galleries. Cochin is considered to be the art hub of the state. The city houses many famous art galleries of Kerala like Museum of Kerala Arts and History, Chaitanya Art Gallery, Chitram Art Gallery and Kashi’s Art House.
I decided that my first halt should be at the above mentioned Museum of Kerala Arts and History situated at Edapally, Kochi. I was bemused by the 200 original paintings and 30 odd sculptures it houses. The museum that is located on the third floor has mural paintings based on classical Sanskrit drama Shakuntalam that is about 25 feet long. You can find the work of eminent artists like Raja Ravi Verma, MF Hussain and FN Souza here.
Sri Chitra Art Gallery at Trivandrum was the second destination in my itinerary. I was able to find the work of my favorite artists there. Names of Ravi Verma, Rabindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, KK Heber are instant crowd pullers when it comes to art lovers. Apart from the paintings of these stalwarts, the gallery also has Tanjore and Balinese paintings with precious stones attached to them. To my surprise I also found paintings belonging to Rajputs, Rajasthanis, Mughal era and countries like Japan, China and Indonesia there. In short I was enthralled and excited.
The people associated with these galleries, the visitors who come here from different corners of the world and the local art enthusiasts of the state told me that the bulk of the art is purchased by tourists and most of the galleries in Kerala provide authenticity certificates issued by the artists to make the selling more transparent.
The conversation with them helped me find out about more art houses in Kerala. I got to know about The Bay Island Driftwood Museum at Kumarakom from few art students. The students told me that the museum has superior quality driftwood sculptures and is known for its rare and innovative form of art.
After learning that the museum is enlisted in the Limca Book of Records, I was at the gallery the very next day. There I met Mrs. Raji Punnose, the brain behind the museum. A school teacher by profession, Raji used to pick up pieces of driftwood deposited by sea during her posting in the Andaman and Nicobar. She cleaned the waste pieces, gave them a definite shape and decided to set up a museum to showcase them.
I saw twisted tree trunks, stumps, roots that resemble birds, animals, reptiles, amphibians and fishes. It is amazing how art finds inspiration. Art is everywhere.
Valmeekam, an art gallery at Wayanad was my last stop. This gallery is first of its kind in Kerala, famous for its carved terracotta sculptures. The gallery is near Kuruva Island, a famous tourist spot of Wayanad. I met a spirited artist there. Georgekutty who works at the gallery likes the themes of love, tribes and Buddha. ‘Kanvu’, a mother-child sculpture is one of his works that is displayed at the gallery.
The list of the art galleries in Kerala does not end here. There is so much to explore and learn about. So watch out for this space for more.
Article Courtesy: Surya Pillai, one of the authors of the blog – Kerala Ayurveda.