God's own country gets a voice on canvas

May 04, 2012, 07:05 IST | Soma Das

Kerala-based artist Gipin Varghese's debut exhibition in the city features 30 acrylic on paper artworks based on the theme of ecological warfare, farmer suicides and power games that take place among life forms

The titles of 32-year-old Gipin Varghese’s artworks say it all — More Souls to the Master, The Only Good Non-human is a Dead Non-human, and Don’t You Have a Kingdom to Run? Centred on issues of ecology and the dynamics between man and nature, Kerala-based artist Varghese makes a plea for ecological awareness through his acrylic on paper art, which will be on display at Sakshi Gallery over the next fortnight.

More Souls to the Master is about genocide

Art of the matter
Elaborating on his artworks, he says, “My works are based on the power dynamics among life forms, and hence, issues related to the ecology and human rights. Tribal people and wild animals that live close to nature tend to get wiped out easily by those who are in power. While nature has the ability to cure itself, it has its limitations and some of the actions are irreversible. So, we have to be conscious about it.”

Varghese has a degree in painting from Thiruvananthapuram Fine Arts College, a Master’s degree in painting from Hyderabad Central University and over the last five years, he has been doing research work for a PhD on the church murals of Kerala. Living in God’s own country, Varghese admits that he developed a strong ecological awareness thanks to the nature clubs and camps in his area. While north Kerala where he lives isn’t victim to rampant tourism, Varghese’s issue-based artworks are inspired by the news he reads or watches on television, such as the Endosulfan issue in northern Kerala (where banned pesticides were sprayed on cashew plantations), genocides and forced relocations.

At first glance, Varghese’s paintings seem to have a faded, antique look to them for which the artist gives his paintings a tea wash. “It’s not my invention. It complements the mood of the work and there are lots of washes that are given throughout the process of painting,” he adds. Among his paintings, Varghese’s favourite is titled Missed Me, which is based on the cotton farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh. The exhibition at Sakshi Gallery will be Varghese’s first major show, since he has been busy focusing on the research and documentation of murals.

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