A Heritage Recognised

Renu Ramanath | Jul 01, 2012 | Vol. 4, Issue 3
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Gallery OED, a reputed contemporary art gallery that used to operate from the mainland of Ernakulam, is all set to open its doors in Mattancherry. The new gallery is a 146 year old pepper godown.

Contemporarily art is not something new for the narrow streets of Mattancherry. For more than 15 years at least, the bylanes of this erstwhile business capital of Kochi where the air is still dense with the fragrance of spices, has played host to many important galleries, like the Draavidia Art and Performance Gallery (now non functioning), or Kashi Art Gallery. And, there were dozens of small time galleries too, opening and closing within months.

However, during the past couple of years, there was a kind of set back in the visual art activities in what we call as 'Western Kochi.' The reasons were many. But now, Gallery OED (Open Eyed Dreams), a reputed contemporary art gallery that used to operate from the mainland of Ernakulam, is all set to open its doors in Mattancherry. “The building was a pepper godown, almost 146 years old !” says Dilip Narayanan, Director of Gallery OED.

It is the space that attracted Dilip Narayanan to Mattancherry. After having worked from somewhat cramped space in Warriam Road of Ernakulam South for a couple of years, the vastness of the godown space was exhilarating. The gallery is 2,300 sq. feet in area on the ground floor, with an office on the upstairs.

The restoration of the ancient structure was done by Common Ground, a Kozhikode-based architecture firm. Nikhil Mohan, a young architect who is part of the Common Ground team, pointed out that maintaining the authenticity of the original heritage structure was the key motive in the whole process.

“Very little was added to the existing structure,” he said, “Except for adding a wooden truss that was missing.” The sagging trusses were replaced as part of the restoration process. Locally available material was used wherever possible, even for the sunshades.  The entire building is not centrally air-conditioned, using ventillation and exhaust fans to control the heat. “We did it on an experimental basis,” the architect points out.

However, the old lime plastering had to be removed and replaced with cement plastering to avoid flaking of the interior walls, which need to be used for display purposes.

The 're-opening' show, starting from July 15, 2012 will feature works from 12 contemporary Indian artists including Rajan Krishnan, Rimzon NN, Sumedh Rajendran, Riyas Komu, Reji K.P., Sujith S.N., Sunoj D., Binoy Varghese, Bhagyanath, Gopi Krishna, Reghunadhan and Zakkir Hussain.

The show is titled, '1341 A.D.' as a tribute to the history of Kochi. 1341 A.D. is the year in which a great flood in the river Periyar caused the river to change its course and clog the legendary port of Muziris that had flourished till then, and opened up the harbour of Kochi further southwards. That marked a great shift in the history of Kerala. Muziris was forgotten, and almost erased out of memory, till recent excavations and explorations started to bring out its remnants outside. Kochi flourished, the rest being history.

Gallery OED pays a tribute to the history of this port city that has played host to generations of wayfarers from all over the world.

For info:
Gallery OED
5/600, Bazaar Road,
Mattancherry, Kochi-  2, Kerala
Ph:094471 08011, www.galleryoed.com

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