The City of Mural

Vidhya Jinesh | Jul 01, 2013 | Vol. 5, Issue 3
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The Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, Kottayam organized a two week long “International Mural Painters' Camp” from 13 to 25 May 2013 at Kottayam (Kerala, India). The event was concluded by the Chief Minister of Kerala, who declared Kottayam the 'Mural City'.

Art as a medium of expression is universal. Beginning with the cave paintings and pottery of ancient days, that are being discovered around the world, to literary books, sculptures, mosaics, mural paintings, and photography are all art forms used to express one self. Murals have been a traditional form of expression of art primarily in temples of Kerala. The origin of murals in Kerala can be traced to around 08th century in the Thirunandikkara cave temple and Thiruvanchikulam temple. Over time murals have beautified the walls of a large number of temples, churches and palaces across the length of Kerala.

Kottayam district in central Kerala is home to picturesque landscapes ranging from back waters lined with palm trees on one side and mountainous view on the other. The city was recently in festive atmosphere celebrating the mural art of Kerala. The Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, Kottayam organized a two week long “International Mural Painters' Camp” from 13 to 25 May 2013 at Kottayam. The event was concluded by the Chief Minister of Kerala, who declared Kottayam the 'Mural City'. The event was replete with mural paintings by 300 artists decorating many walls in the city. The artists and experts participating in the event were from across the country as well as from countries like Italy, Germany, Portugal, Korea and Canada.

Paintings on Public Walls

Almost every structure in the city was canvas to the artists and they draped the city in an assortment of colours. Murals were painted on 15 major centres of cultural or religious importance and other government or public buildings in Kottayam city during the International Mural Painters' Camp.  In several of these buildings, murals have been painted on several parts. The Thirunakkara Mahadeva Kshetram, Thirunakkara Ganapathi Temple, Sree Krishna Swami Kshetram and Kottayam Valiyyapalli are amongst the places of worship where mural works have been prepared. Other mural paintings drawn by the artists as permanent exhibits at public places all over the town include public library, town hall, educational institutions, hospital and the railway station.

The four Gopurams of the Thirunakkara Mahadeva Kshetram have been painted in the traditional Kerala style of mural painting. The work has been done by Shri Krishnan Malliseri and team. The teams which worked on the East, West, North and South gopurams are lead by Shri Basant Peringode, Shri Sasi, Shri P P Rajendran and Shri Unni Amakkavu respectively.

The Thirunakkara Ganapathi temple murals depict the various forms represented by the 1001 holy names of Lord Ganapathi. The paintings are also in traditional Kerala mural sytle and have been developed by Shri Nalin Babu and team. The 'Venugopalam' mural painting at the Sree Krishna Swami Kshetram is a result of the magnificent efforts of the famous and revered Shri K K Warrier and team. The mural works based on a wide range of Christian topics was completed by Shri Prijeesh C V and team in the Kottayam Valiyyapalli. It is interesting to note that a large number of students of mural paintings were working alongside these experts of the art gaining valuable experience along with an insight on the subject.

The works in the Civil Station has three varied streams of modern murals with an international flavour.  German artist Nele Martinez and Canadian artist Jennifer McCollum has done an amazing cement mural depicting the biodiversity, at the entrance of the new collect orate wall. The Civil Station is thus having three different streams of modern murals in its compound in addition to the traditional murals being painted on the main entrance of the building by artists from Kerala. The one on the entrance of the Civil station has been done on the concept of 'Jnanavriksha', and was conceptualized by Suresh Muthukulam, Idranath K.P and others. Various other styles like Nayak Style, KishanNagar style, traditional Rajasthani style and Mysore style were portrayed on various parts of the Collectorate building.

Yet another structure which has been beautified with mural painting is the Kottayam District Panchayat building. The water tank was turned to a concrete mural inspired from the work “Water” by Suresh Kumar. Artists like Prahalad Mahana, Nageshwar, Dr.Subimalendu Silvi, Viswarenjan and Priti, hailing from various parts of India have showcased their works like Madhubani painting, contemporary mural style, Cherial painting etc on the building. These murals depict the natural environ, characters from classics like Ramayana and also motifs from day to day life. The district hospital walls were adorned with mural painting by Filipe Dos Santos Garcia from Portugal and Italian painter Sara Guberty. Kottayam railway station is another public utility area which was turned into a site of art by the relentless efforts of various artists from all over India. The walls were revamped with Basholi , Kurumba, Madhubani and contemporary styles of painting . Other spots selected for the presentation of the mural painting were Kottayam Tourism Promotion Council office, Press club, Kottayam Public library, Darsana Cultural Centre, Entrance of Thirunakkara ground, Knanaya Jacobite Valiapally and CMS College.

The mural paintings of Kottayam provide a visual treat to the public and the same time provides a classic platform for the artists all over the world to showcase their talent. The camp also provided opportunity for individuals and organizations to approach the artists to decorate their homes and office spaces with murals. The “International Mural Painters' Camp” has provided the necessary impetus to rejuvenate the art of mural paintings. The amalgamation of the traditional structures with mural paintings and the new paintings during the camp will enable Kottayam city to be truly the 'Mural City'.

Location/access: Kottayam town, well connected by road and rail. At present, the murals are drawn in 15 locations (see  sketch map) and are within 2km radius of Kottayam town. (Kerala, India)

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