Kerala murals are indeed god’s own! It’s a wondrous kaleidoscope of five unique colors- the ochre red, the ochre yellow, white, green and the bluish green. These murals are exceptional for many reasons. The dazzling and voluptuous yet symmetrical divine figures that crowd the walls and canvas have differentiating features like the lotus shaped eyes for one, the extensive ornamentation they are adorned with and many other striking strokes. The flora and fauna that mostly glaze on the backdrop of these pictures are all the more beautiful.
Born in 1934, K.K.Warrier,is a passionate veteran on Kerala murals; undoubtedly a consummate artist, who is forever burning with a fervent craving to preserve this beautiful traditional art.
K.K. Warrier, can be rightfully called the ‘Curator of the Kerala Murals’ for more than the acclaimed mural artist he is. Warrier, with his exceptional creativity and untainted passion for the primeval art zealously preserved nearly 114 frames of the ancient murals from across different temples of Kerala. Most of these centuries’ old pictures were merely wall scraps with bright paints turning shades of black and dark brown, when Warrier and his team of experts wove their magic on them with a unique technique he had invented. And all his mural works does have this weave of magic in them (surely a blessing of the Almighty), giving the viewer the feeling that ‘God is directly looking on to you and with you’.
The veteran is always willing to share his knowledge or rather his deep-rooted passion for the art. This is clearly evident in the short but enlightening interview that team Saalabhanjika was fortunate to have with the ‘Master’ or ‘Maashe’ as he is fondly called. He takes us through a quick rendezvous of the Kerala mural art- definitely a beginner’s lesson and must know facts for all art enthusiasts.
Sir, how did you learn painting or what made you decide to choose mural painting as your career ?
Learning to paint and draw was something that I developed ever since I was a kid. My parents were not artists. I feel I probably inherited my talents from my mother’s uncle who was a renowned Kathakali make-up artist. He was a mural painter too. However, my teacher who taught me all the basics on painting and drawing was again a mural artist. I did my first mural painting with him at Sri Rama Temple, Thalassery. In fact my first brush strokes on a wall were then. After that one mural that I did, the art just got into me and I wanted to learn more about this traditional art. What turned out as a passion for me, later flared into a strong desire to protect the many age-old murals that exist in the state.
For every art in India there is a long-standing base text, like The Natyasastra for dance. Do Kerala murals have a text that lays down the essential basics ?
The whole foundation that lays down the basics about every Indian painting is from a prehistoric text called Vishnu Dharmothara Puranam. Every Indian mural evolved from this text over the ages. Like with all the ancient texts we have, this book again is wholly constructed on conversations between the Master and the Seeker-who is a Prince who is to be crowned the king soon. The book talks about every art. However the third part of the book which is divided into 9 chapters is all about paintings and drawings and on the walls in particular. These 9 chapters are called Chitrasuthram, and each chapter is a comprehensive account from preparing the walls to giving the final touches to the painting, which is called Nethronmali. The differences in the Indian wall art we see are wholly specific to the different regions. Nevertheless, Vishnu Dharmothara Puranam is the fundamental text for Indian paintings.