Kerala Lalithakala Akademi (KLA) facilitated a unique update of the country’s varied streams of woodcarving and wood-relief, as ‘Resurgence 22’ concluded on Monday to initiate a countrywide travel of the artworks done at the national camp.
The 11-day workshop near Sreekandapuram of this northern district turned a new leaf in the history of Indian art by providing a common space for traditional craftspeople and new-age visual artists, cutting across gender, region and generations. The May 20-30 event at KGS Kalagramam in hilly Kakkannappara brought together different genres of woodcarving and wood-relief. A rally of interactive sessions and presentations benefited the participants, besides visitors who saw the works on display on Sunday and Monday.
Alongside the 20 creations by professional artists, ‘Resurgence 22’ saw active participation of half-a-dozen students. The whole set of novel works will be exhibited at LKA’s gallery in Kochi or Kozhikode after the monsoons. After that, the art-pieces will travel to places outside the state, organizers said.
“Beyond Kerala, Bangalore will be the first destination,” LKA Chairman Murali Cheeroth revealed. “The works require a few weeks to dry and become sturdy. Hence the wait.”
‘Resurgence 22’ was held with the aim of resurrecting Kerala’s grand woodcarving tradition so as to place its spirit in a modern and secular context. “When conventional and contemporary artists joined hands, the camp lent a new idiom to wood-carving,” Shri Cheeroth said. “It was gave contemporary artists an unprecedented chance to sense traditional aesthetics and take tips on conventional craftsmanship. For instance, some of the woodworks also incorporated materials such as stone and thread.”
Essentially interactive, the camp saw specially-invited eminent artists and historians such as N.N. Rimzon, Valsan Koorma Kolleri, Preeti Joseph and Riyas Komu leading key sessions. Besides giving presentations, these experts co-acted with the participating and alongside art enthusiasts who included students.
On the penultimate day, Mumbaikar Komu gave a presentation of his works as the mentor of the camp. His lecture of ‘My Grave: Measuring the Depth’ threw fresh light to the camp members. On Monday, too, the Mumbai-based multidisciplinary artist interacted with the participants, earning appreciation for the overall spirit of creative experiments at the camp.
Sculptor Sushanta Kumar Maharana from Orissa noted that Kerala’s great tradition of woodcarving warrants sincere revival efforts amid a decline. “The KLA camp made a strong step towards this direction,” he said. “The face-to-face meetings between artists facilitated an amalgamation of a range of genres.”
According to Merlin Moli, a multidisciplinary visual artist with three decades of sculpting career, the camp was an eye-opener. “Wood has never been my medium. Now I have the confidence to work on this material, too,” revealed the Delhiite. “Moreover, the camp helped me interact with young artists.”
The KLA head said such engagements help shape an artist’s vision. “People from different walks of creative life came together, shared ideas and sharpened their knowledge as well as skill-sets. The sessions helped them break one’s shell and explore new things, thus catalyzing learning. The results are evidently of success,” added Shri Cheeroth, who did his higher studies at Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal.
Akademi Secretary N. Balamuralikrishnan said such initiatives will bring society closer to artists, who can sharpen their vision in the process. “We need to preserve our woodwork heritage for the posterity,” he added.
Culture Minister Saji Cheriyan inaugurated ‘Resurgence 22’ virtually, capping up the government’s second 100-Day Programme. The artists included Anto George, Balagopal Bhethoor, Gigi Scaria, Helna Merin Joseph, Madhu K.V., Pradeep Kambathali, Premkumar P.L., Rajasekharan Nair, Rajesh Ram, Rajesh Thachan, Ranjumol C., Rajani S.R., Sunil Kuttan, Sooraj V.S., Sunil Thiruvaniyur, Tensing Joseph and Vaisakh K. besides Maharana and Moli.
‘Resurgence 22’ comes as part of the ongoing 60th year celebrations of the KLA as an autonomous institution that promotes the region’s visual arts heritage. The 1962-founded KLA is headquartered in Thrissur, 210 km south of this city. The Kalagramam is named after Padma Vibhushan-winning artist K.G. Subramanyan (1924-2016) who was a native of Kuthuparamba in this belt of Malabar and went on to gain an iconic status in Baroda’s MS University and the world-renowned Santiniketan.