Among the many paintings you have preserved, there was a huge one you took off the walls. Can you tell us more about it?
The largest mural work we took off the walls was from an old mansion in Guruvayur. Back in old times old mansions and palaces across Kerala had some beautiful mural works. Ncharankat Pisharam Mansion located in Guruvayur, had a huge picture of Sri Rama Pattaabhishekam (the marriage of Lord Sri Rama and Sita), which was 155cm by 115cm in length and breath. The oldest painting we worked on was one found in Thaikattusherry Vamana Moorthy temple.
Wow, that’s indeed laudable. To be a world renowned acclaimed painter is a big achievement but to develop methods to preserve whatever is left of our ancient art is something noteworthy. Getting back, how long did it take you to finish the repainting work at the Guruvayoor temple?
We were three teams of artists who worked inside the temple precincts, dividing the three sides of the temple between us. It was a painstaking job. We had to peel of all the scraps of the old paintings and then redo the wall preparations. After which we traced the paintings on the wall surface with the traces we had earlier kept and then colored them. Almost all the paintings were exact reproductions of the old. It took us three years to complete the whole restoration process.
We have different kinds of murals across the world belonging to different countries. What makes Kerala murals stand out from that of the rest of the world and also from other Indian murals?
A very good question in fact. Only in Kerala murals we use the distinctive black outline. Lines are very important in every mural. All other murals are color specific that is they use the same colors used on the body for the outline and shading. But in Kerala we use the prominent black for outlines, perfectly blending it with the rest of the colors on the canvas.
Nowadays, there is a prevalent and growing trend of murals being done on fabrics and cloth bags. As someone who has been involved with the art for decades, what is your opinion on this?
Murals are not an art form that should be done on perishable materials and from that perspective, I do not encourage mural art as a fashion statement. There is a lot of preparation and method to how it should be done which are not authentically followed on fabrics and other materials.