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Murali Nagapuzha
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Of elephants, spices and the everyday

“Anybody who tries from the start to make “universal” art is making a big mistake. That is the problem with international art today. That type of art moves just a very small group of people who, in some way, are trying to do the same thing. All great art that exists started out parochial. For example the Impressionsts did not paint France; the painted some part of France; Montmartre, Montparnasse, cafe life. That was not an interpretation of European life, but simply life on the corner. Assyrian art representwd the local reality-men hunting lions. Egyptian art showed everday life. Everything has to start at the beginning, and that beginning is completely local, its the same thing in literature.”

 -Botero

 

To understand Murali Nagapuzha’s art, we need to first look at Kerala. Where everyday is a painting. Waiting to be absorbed, distilled and captured. Where the sun hangs a whole golden orb in the eastern sky and the wind crackles through the trees and the breeze nudges the undergrowth. Then there are the fields. Yellow stacks of paddy lie supine on the brown thirsty earth where once they stood green and erect waving their stubbly heads to the gods above. Flowers everywhere. Balsam and hibiscus. Yellow trumpet shaped flowers and tiny ‘ari-poo’ in the hedges. Marigolds. Rajakiredam. Thechi… The tree snake coils its green length around a branch while on another a hoopoe pauses for a moment. Ants scurry. Dragon flies hover. Giant ones with bead like eyes, a red and yellow body and gauzey wings. When hordes of them fly close to the land, it will rain that day, folklore says.

So this then is the world of Murali Nagapuzha. Part memory. Part nostalgia. Part a deep abiding love for the wonder of the everyday. Add to this the man that Murali is. A composite of many experiences that turned the indignant scrutiny of the conscientious being into an indefinable lode of artistry. When these come together, the world that disturbs Murali Nagapuzha and the world that he has an intimate understanding of and identification with is amalgamated and absorbed to create a whole new artistic dialect.

In this dialect, the vowels are less rounded and the consonants independent. Pause at the childhood series – where in a bucolic setting children frolic and a cow grazes. The hues of the hibiscus and the variegated leaves of the elephant yam are all familiar. Endearing images echoing with the poignancy of nostalgia. We all know that feeling but then what takes the breath away is the washing line of whiter than white clothes where a brassiere fluttering in the breeze is inserted with a certain and casual cheekiness. Never was art more alive and more resolute.

We see this again and again even as angels hover offering excess and more excess to a landscape already saturated with excess or as fish ache to bite and be part of that already laden fisherman’s catch. As with the cadences of a new dialect that builds itself on the solid syntax of a much used language, Murali Nagapuzha’s work has the resonance of familiarity. We think we know and that we recognize it. Only at first. Murali uses the familiar to entice the eye. Then it is Murali’s world we are privy to. He draws from the familiar rather than concoct the new. It is both biography and artistic philosophy.

Murali Nagapuzha’s art works with sentiment but at no time are we to dismiss it as sentimental. It is vulnerable in that it allows itself to be perceived as childlike but that is its strength. A child’s innocence, a child’s lack of duplicity, a child like playfulness and a child’s wonder – ‘the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind’-. In a world, where being accessible is considered being popular and hence less worthy, Murali Nagapuzha takes a risk. Not just is his realm figurative but his artistic motifs are drawn from a landscape that is now part of every tourist brochure that celebrates God’s Own country. And yet, without being banal or kitschy, Murali Nagapuzha’s artistic terrain marvels at the Kerala contours and colours and makes it his own. To follow Murali there is be enchanted. It cuts off all escape routes and makes it impossible for us to turn away from his mindscape. What more could an artist aspire for?

-  Anita Nair (Author)

The immediacy of the medim, the lushness of colour, the sensuality of expression makes Murali, a singular voice in contemporary Indian art.

Born and raised in Kerala, Murali’s visual iconography is symptomatic of the local and the global. Embedded in his native land, Kerala, Murali through his painting transports us into his personal and internal landscapes. Anita Nair’s text adds that extra insight into the landscape of Murali’s expression. Within the Indian context Kerala has its own complexities and dynamism, which then becomes the fast forward engine of creativity and Murali, a traveller in this creative journey.

- Dr. Alka Pande (Curator)

Almost lost world

Murali Nagappuzha's paintings may at first sight remind  art lovers of Henry Rousseau, the French post-impressionist painter inspired by Primitive art. Murali is also a self-taught painter like Rousseau and his paintings have  a spectacular quality lent to it by his bold use of colours and shapes. But there ends the comparison. Murali's paintings ,even when reproducing real objects from nature and human life,  have a dream-like quality  his rare imagination invests them with , an imagination that captures the real objects and beings and transforms them into something ever-fresh and ever-beautiful. It is as if we were seeing them for the first time.

Murali re-enchants the disenchanted world of reality with his magic brush  and creates poetry on the canvas with his lyrical , other-worldly  imagination. The ordinary flowers, plants, birds and beasts  suddenly metamorphose into extraordinary objects as if  we had reached a Platonic world of the ideal objects whose imitation it is that we see on earth. There is something idyllic about the world he creates; even the poor rustic men , women and children and their tiny cottages begin to glow with rare radiance, not to speak of the lotus, the peacock , the kingfisher and the deer. We know this is Kerala and still we begin wondering whether  we can really belong to this paradise of luminous hues where  a heavenly light  seems to illuminate everything.

Here the real stretches its arms towards the surreal, everyday things turn into objects of desire, we once again reach that   childhood world of wonder and fantasy where everything looks new, everything brings pleasure to the senses. Yes, his is a world of sensuous  charm and heavenly  grace, something  the Malayali may have come across in the lyrical world of Changampuzha Krishnapillai, and others in, say, Jibanananda Das,Tagore,  Nirala, Wordsworth or  Keats all of whom had  brought their romantic gaze and nostalgic longing to  bear upon and fill with light the things and beings that surround us and people the world.

These paintings that transport us into an ethereal  world provide an aesthetic escape to men and women entangled in the  web of daily sorrows and the humdrum routines of a drab age of vain toil and grey  boredom and the inevitable melancholy and monotony produced by the   crass materialism of a careeristic existence . Here is a world of joy that tempts us with its unreal reality and invites us to share their feast of riotous colours from which the eye refuses to easily return.

-  Satchidanandan

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Cadences of a new dialect

Solo show of recent paintings by Murali Nagapuzha.