36 days of type – Mosaics

Hello! I know I’ve been irregular in updating my blog. But here’s some good news. I’m doing the @36daysoftype challenge. I’ve chosen mosaic art as my theme. Take a look at my work on my Instagram page www.instagram.com/phoenixinindia/

The challenge (how I can it) involves a visual representation of 26 letters of the alphabet and numbers 0 to 9.

Mosaic art is not easy when made by hand. It requires immense concentration, effort and patience. But the end result makes it worthwhile. Do take a look at some of my work!



Chennai: Manipuri artist Golmei Gandumpu briefly stares at his canvas before dipping his brush into a blob of blue and applying measured strokes to a dancer’s costume. But the somber tones of blue and white are in stark contrast to the vibrant attire of a dancer belonging to the ancient Kabui tribe of northeast India. The painting seeks to reflect the story of a community that is losing its culture because of ethnic tension.

“The green background alludes to hilly areas of Manipur and the pale blue figures depict a fading community,” says Gandumpu, who is one among 24 artists participating in an interactive workshop organized by the Lalit Kala Akademi.

Titled ‘Ethnic Mindscapes – II’, the programme has 12 artists from the northeast exchange ideas on painting styles and techniques with participants from different parts like Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. During the workshop, artists are encouraged to experiment with their paintings by incorporating or trying new techniques that they observe.

“Previously the programme also included experimental art and installations. But this year, the focus is only on paintings,” says Rm Palaniappan, regional secretary, Lalit Kala Akademi.

The vast cultural diversity is apparent in the themes and colours used to create the art work. Realism is a recurrent theme in many paintings this year, with only a few painters taking to surrealist and abstract art.

From a small house at Kumbakonam to scenes from the Lai Haroba festival, most paintings mirror the sights and sounds of the artist’s surroundings. And the story behind every painted canvas reveals a hidden individuality. “Painters usually reproduce still-life in their art work. But since dance is an essential part of my culture, I have tried to capture movement rather than static postures,” explains Gandumpu.

Also, while observing the larger picture, one tends to miss the subtle differences in technique and style. “I realised that northeast artists use the same medium differently. In watercolour paintings, we use a brush to spread colour on the canvas. But they let the paint drip, giving the image an accidental effect which is quite interesting,” says senior artist Manohar Natarajan from Kumbakonam.

On the other hand, artists from Tripura, Assam and Manipur are drawn to the detailing seen in south Indian paintings. “Their attention to detail is fascinating as it is precise and intricate,” says Tripuri-based symbolist artist Ujjayani Nandi, whose paintings stand-out as they depict dream imagery.

There is also a stark contrast in the colour tones used. While thick coats of fiery reds, bright yellows and rosy pinks are seen in the realist northeast pieces, sober greens and pale blues characterise the south Indian ones.

“It’s very interesting. The northeast people are very soft-spoken but their art work has bright, loud colours. We, in fact, are quite outspoken but our artworks have subtle shades,” says Mumbai-based artist Shilpa Pandit, whose oil painting will include letters from Buddhist scriptures.

A short trip around the city has also inspired many artists to capture the most striking aspects of their journey like the houses at Cholamandalam Village and the fisherwomen at Marina.

The public can meet and interact with the artists at the centre until January 31. The completed art works will be added to the Akademi’s archives. They will be exhibited in the third week of March.


exhibition photo of P Balachandar painting at Bindu Arts School

Chennai: Clutching a paint brush which is strapped to his palm with a rubber band, P Balachandran paints colourful pictures of various birds on his canvas. The 63-year-old may have lost a finger to leprosy but he found solace in art. The creative journey that began through the Bindu Arts School in Chengalpet has helped him lead a life of dignity ever since.

“Drawing has become my passion. Earlier, I used to feel depressed thinking about my illness. But painting helps me forget all my worries,” says Balachandran, who is among 18 other students displaying their artwork at an exhibition organized by the school at DakshinaChitra.

This year’s paintings capture a variety of themes in bright colours. From animals to birds, flowers to fishes, the exhibition has around 37 framed canvasses. The initiative hopes to empower many leprosy patients by making them financially independent.

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“There is an inner beauty in poor people that we don’t recognize. Unlike popular perception, they make beautiful paintings. Their work does not reflect any depression or frustration despite the difficult circumstances they’ve been through,” says Austrian artist Werner Dornik, who founded the school with Padma Venkataraman in 2005.

When Dornik first visited India in 1977, he was very disturbed by the plight of the leprosy patients in Varanasi. Initially, he raised money for their treatment. But the idea to set up the school developed after the government began offering free treatment for the illness.

“I didn’t want the concept to be perceived as charity where I am seen as the ‘good man’ and the students had to be ‘thankful’. The idea was to make them independent so that they didn’t beg,” says Dornik, who showcases their work at exhibitions across India and Europe.


The school has also been instrumental in honing their skills by helping them develop their own personal styles. “We give them the freedom to paint what they like. Sometimes we have group interactions where we discuss what is missing and what can be changed,” says Dornik, who also curates the exhibition.

Apart from guest lectures and workshops, students are also taken on week-long trips to give them exposure. “The school has become like my family. We wouldn’t have got an opportunity to visit so many places if we were living in our own homes,” says Godavari, who looks forward to their trip to Shantiniketan in February.

The exhibition is at the Kadambari Gallery, DakshinaChitra until February 3. The paintings are priced at Rs. 4,500 and Rs. 9,500. “The proceeds from the sale help in paying the monthly stipend for the students and in purchasing art supplies for the school. In fact, since 2008, the school has been running purely on the income from these exhibitions and not on donations,” says Dornik.



I climbed up the staircase. On my way up, I saw a lovely set of yellow lampshades decorating the white wall on my left. A beautiful lady dressed in hues of kumkum red, holding an instrument in her hand, adorned with traditional jewellery lent the lampshade an ethnic tinge. There was something about the decor that made me like the place at once.

As I climbed further, I reached a corridor. I turned left and found the glass door that opened into the world where I believe I belonged. I pushed the door and entered. Wooden cabinets with glass doors were lined in a row. One glimpse at what they housed was enough to tell me that the next hour was going to be spent there. Continue reading


Street Art in Alwarpet, Chennai by Joyston Christopher Vas

Art in Chennai by Graffiti Artist Joyston Christopher Vaz

When you walk through the streets of Chennai, it is hard to miss the street art that colour the walls. From bold Tamil slogans to portraits of politicians, Chennai exhibits a different culture of street art. The concept of street art or graffiti has evolved over time in every aspect. Themes, motivations, mind sets and tools have changed with time. Interestingly, street art in Chennai is a perfect blend of the traditional with the modern and the local with the global.

While Chennai’s streets have a long way to go before they leave their mark on the canvas of street art across the world, it is fast developing and competing with cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Continue reading