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Sounds Around too Decide Calligraphy Strokes & Tenor: Master at Biennale

In Kochi
February 19, 2019

Even to those reasonably familiar with calligraphy, it came as refreshing thought when the master told them that the sounds around can influence the output of the writing-based visual art. Middle-aged Achyut Palav also noted that the delicateness or boldness of a brushstroke is a reflection of one’s state of mind.

“Much of it depends on your emotion,” said the Mumbai-based artist, while leading a calligraphy workshop at the Cabral Yard which is a venue of the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale. “The style of writing also depends on the media you choose. Not just that, even the sounds you hear influences your calligraphy.”

To 58-year-old Achyut, calligraphy is not just a hobby or job. “It stimulates imagination, creativity…. Your mind opens to new ideas,” he noted on Sunday towards the end of a two-day workshop the Kochi Biennale Foundation organised at the art room as part of the 108-day festival concluding on March 29. “It helps you push the boundaries created by our own rigid minds. Calligraphy actually unveils a new canvas for expression.”

Research student Aruna V, who was at the Fort Kochi venue on a weekend break from Kalady’s Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit where she is doing MPhil, said the workshop gave her a “comprehensive experience” of calligraphy. “I could explore the scripts, techniques, tools, media and textures,” she said. “Besides the visual part, the audio treat was great while discovering the secrets of the symbols and letters.”

Palav, who has taught at the Sir J J Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai from where he graduated in 1982, said his mission has been to introduce traditional and modern calligraphy to masses. “Through various exhibitions and workshops in India and abroad, I have demonstrated calligraphy in Devanagari, English and other Indian languages,” he said. “Here at the biennale art room, I am particularly impressed by the age group of the trainees. They are very young, mostly school students.”

The February 16-17 workshop was divided into four sessions that spanned three-and-a-half hours each. The inaugural sessions saw the master giving his students an introduction to calligraphy, along with a presentation of its tools and techniques supported by audio-visuals and a live demonstration. A chunk of the attendees was students and teachers from Edward Memorial Government Higher Secondary School (EMGHSS) at nearby Veli.

The participants also included those from beyond not just Kochi or Kerala, but even from abroad. For instance, David Forestt, who took lessons from Pallav, is a French “The beauty of calligraphy is that it’s a one-time thing. You never draw the same line again,” pointed out the 47-year-old European. “Each person draws his or her individual lines that nobody else can create. I liked this celebration of beautiful handwriting; it appealed to me a lot.”

Down his workshop, Achyut also gave an hour-long presentation at the Biennale Pavilion adjacent to the art room. There, he spoke about how hidden subtlety, energy and emotions behind the words decide the artistry of calligraphy. “It goes much beyond the use of pen to paper to create an expression or style in this art,” he added.

According to the master, each letter is a design in itself. “Every letter or symbol has the potential to become a piece of art, whether painted individually or as a composition,” said Achyut, known for his unique approach to the aesthetics of calligraphy that he has been striving to revive over the past three decades. “I have always treated this art as my worship.”

Besides those from EMGHSS, students and teachers of Rajagiri Public School in Kalamaserry, north of Kochi, too, were overwhelmed at the workshop. The final day featured two sessions: experimental calligraphy and umbrella painting.