World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 231 – Pushpakaran Kadappath
Pushpakaran Kadappath is an artist from Kerala, India. The village of Velur is the place where he grew up and still lives. Pushpakaran makes imaginative drawings and paintings full of magic elements. In many of the works the stories of his grandmother come back.
Pushpakaran: “I grew up listening to the fairy tales and ghost stories told by my grandma. Grandma didn’t like me going out and playing with friends. She made me sit at home telling tales. The next influential figure in my life is my uncle who coloured my childhood with mythical stories and took me to the local folk festivals.” And he also loved the stories and illustrations of children’s magazines.
Flying without wings
His grandmother and his uncle lit his imagination which has since been running at a high speed. “ My dreams are fuel for my works. In my childhood dreams there were regularly bears. They could walk and talk like humans. I too was one of the characters in my dreams and I had a magical figure that that flew between the other characters.”Also grape and apple plantations were in his dreams. Sometimes he is flying through coconut groves, palm woods of hill valleys in the moonlit night. He is flying without wings.
The village of Velur is not so far away from Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala, tells Pushkaran enthusiastic. “Velur is known for its festival ‘Manimalarkavu vela’ with big moveble wooden horses. Two gigantic horses, with six-foot knights on the top of each, carried by 60 men are the main attraction of the festival. The wooden horse sare completely movable and can turn around, nod head, stand up and smile. Wooden statues of Nair (a caste in Kerala) warriors with swords and shields are also seen in front of the horses.
The horses are carried two kilometer away to the temple along with drums and boisterous processions. “The festival is said to have started 600 years ago and Kali (a mother goddess) is worshipped here. A war between Kali and Darika (the Demon) is symbolized in the festival. It has connection with farming and harvesting also. Traditional carpentry skills and technics make the gigantic movable horses a real wonder. Very bright colours and handicrafts add to the beauty of the horses. This colourful festival also has greatly influenced my life.”
Folk arts and handicrafts
As a boy he made toys and distributed them to his friends. He thinks he got the skill from seeing the folk arts and handicrafts at the local festivals. “Abstract machineries found in my later works are formed out of these perceptions. Many folk art forms follow the horses to reach Manimalarkavu (the Temple). Fear, curiosity and wonder, all these sparked in my mind when I saw Malavayi, Mookkan Chathan, Poothan, Thira, Naayadi, Chozhi and Velichappadu like deities, rather folk art forms, some masked and some not, with ferocious expressions and in bright reddish colours and attires. These deities have various dimensions and formulations in my mind. Stories of heroes, ghost stories and fairy tales, everything gave a magical face to my village, Velur.”
Pushpakaran’s childhood education was at the church school near his house. The church had been built through a German Jesuit Priest in 1700. “His name was Johann Ernst Hanxleden, he is locally known as Arnos Pathiri. He visited Velur to learn the Sanskrit language. Velur was then famous for its Sanskrit scholars. Stories and myths about the priest are still existent among the native people. Images and forms of the priest, which are quite foreign in appearance, arise from the depths of my mind often. I was actually taken to a mystic world having heard the stories about the priest and with my own experiences and perceptions. My works like ‘A wizard sailor and his untold stories’/ ‘Flying lamps from the diary of an ancient sailor and the angels of time with them’/ ‘Camouflaged Saints’ / ’Wandering souls of Jew’ have these reflections in a way.”
Fine Arts School
He went to Art School in Kalady where he received a bachelor degree of Fine Arts at Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit. Most of his works of the time were oil paintings. In the paintings he processed experiences in the town. You can see in the paintings that he was interested in the work of the American artist R.B. Kitaj. His masters he got in Kottayam at the R.L.V. College of Fine Arts, part of the Mahathma Gandhi University. He went to Santiniketan where he wanted to follow the masters course, it didn’t work out but he learned a lot from friends, such as K.S. Sujith.
During that time there was a sudden change in his work. “I was back to my village visuals. My paintings and drawings were mostly filled with the main attraction of my village, the big wooden horses.” He became interested in Picasso, the charcoal drawings of William Kentridge, the South African artist and Paul Delvaux (Belgium), an advocate of magic realism. His first work ‘Stacked Dream of Childhood’ was the beginning and inspiration of all other works to come in the following ten years. After he was back from Santiniketan, he was engaged in painting works like houses, and statues and forms at churches. “I had done many scribble drawings in Indian ink with charcoal and pen during the intervals. Various designs and art works in Indian ink were there in the crowns and faces of the ancient and traditional folk art forms. The Santiniketan effect also attracted me towards Indian ink. There could be abstract forms of sketches in my inner mind, I believe, which started forming out on my medium knowingly or unknowingly. I successfully completed my first drawing in Indian ink. Some new textures and techniques were just coming to me that time as if somebody was making me do it.”
Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant
He got an exhibition in Dubar Hall Art centre, Kochi and at an art centre in Trivandrum. He sold many works and the media were reporting about the event. He received an honorable invitation for a studio in Chennai at the Lalit Kala Akademi. After that he moved to Bombay at the advice of C.D. Jain, an art promotor. Bomaby is the domain of well-known artists and art exhibitions. His stay wasn’t too long, because of malaria he went back to his native place. After he recovered he got a job in Trivandrum in a conservation project of the paintings of K.C.S. Paniker in Trivandrum Museum. During this time he took part in three group exhibitions, among which two abroad (Egypt and USA). After receiving a Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant (2014) he came again in the news. In the Mayayala Manorama he was on the front page, together with the news of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission. “The news was celebrated in my village. Everyone visited my house to celebrate me.”
In 2015 he got a solo exhibition at a gallery in Thrissur with the title ‘An untold stories by Grandma’, dedicated to his paternal grandmother. To be followed two years later by the exhibition ‘Tale – Real and Unreal’ in David Hall, Fort Kochi. Currently he is working on a series of drawings, ‘In search of Immortal Wings’ which focuses on the presentation of his personal researches and the innovative potentials of drawings in different media.
At the moment he is still busy portraying untold stories by grandma as life experiences, dreams and characters. “The images in my works may sometimes be flying magical forms or they may have ferocious faces, abstract or concrete, whatever, they have social relevance and take up social criticism in a way. The dreams that pop up may relate with intense socio political life where my being is. And my artistic existence cannot be entirely different from the deep rooted mysterious and magical myths and histories. So, the stories and myths of my village continuously become a background for novel dreams and stories. Mirrors are employed in my works as tools for the perception of contemporary material life. A new inner world is reflected through mirrors. At times, you can also see crazy unrealistic images and characters in my works which are purposefully articulated and are there to open up discourses on the personal experiences and the perceptions of the viewer.”
Lines as particles of the universe
There is a subtle language in the works that is not always easy to understand. “I conceive the dynamic nature of the lines as particles of universe, as codes that appear beyond the blend of black and white. I perceive and place various dots, textures and flow of lines as some codes and symbols. I adopt a different methodology giving it an abstract language so as to create and present a concept. I am able to foresee the contemporary relevance of the factors that can be translated in to new forms, associated with the new style and concepts. The movement of lines that happen in my mind is sometimes expressed quite unknowingly in my works and it may be the rhythm of the universe where my being is a dot. I personally believe that the mysterious lines, textures, incidents or situations which have reflections in my works just happen to be in my works. Rather they are not my rational creations in a way.”
His dream project is a Biographical Diary. “I wish to bring in the diary the incidents in day to day artistic life, concepts and images that arise in my mind from time to time and my pictures. Each diary would portray the art activities of five years and also the changes in the artistic life. The peculiarity of biographical diary is that the artist himself sketches down the life of the artist where as it is normally done by the art historians or biographers. The five-year diary will be presented as art installation in my solo exhibition. Biographical diary is a life-long conceptual project. Every five years’ changes will be contained in the diary. Another dream is to set up a museum on my own. Biographical diary and the drawings will be exhibited in the museum. I am currently into the dreams and I am taking it ahead too.