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Tale of gods

Updated on: 24 April,2022 08:12 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ela Das |

Intricate enough to be a jigsaw puzzle or a game of Where’s Waldo?, Milburn Cherian’s Biblical paintings play out like a vivid storybook

Tale of gods

Milburn Cherian’s solo exhibition features select paintings done over the last decade, featuring meticulous detailing

I find [human] figures the most difficult to paint, so I paint them more and more,” artist Milburn Cherian exclaims, much to our confusion. If you saw her paintings, which depict an intricate sea of people, you wouldn’t think it to be true. “I like to punish myself, and make my life complicated.” In her ongoing exhibition, Mythical Realms, we discover a collection of paintings spanning the last decade, with a fascinating attention to detail.


While the overarching Biblical theme is the first thing you’ll notice, as you look closer, you’ll discover that each painting opens like a vivid story with characters, motifs and scenery popping up as you go along. “I don’t plan anything—my mind is blank when I begin, unless something specific is commissioned to me. I start at one corner of the canvas with elements like the sky and plants. It’s like writing a book—I’ll draw one figure and then get an idea and flow it into the painting. Until the very end, I have no clue what the completed work is going to look like.”



Milburn Cherian
Milburn Cherian


In Surrealist style, which has heavily influenced her work, some figures don’t have hands. It’s to emphasise emptiness along with pain and suffering. “It’s a strong way to depict it, but I never paint children like that,” she quickly adds.

Some of her larger works—such as the pièce de resistance titled, Signs in the Skies—took almost six to eight months to complete. “The bigger ones are my earlier works where I primarily used earthy colours—I was scared of colour, and a little choosy about it at the time. To hold [vibrant shades] on that scale felt a little tricky, so I started experimenting with them on my smaller paintings. Eventually, I brightened the shades because I’d paint a lot of wretchedness and suffering. To lighten an entire story, I used more colour.”

Interestingly, Cherian didn’t start her career with Biblical themes. It was poet Adil Jussawalla who planted the seed in her head when he reckoned that she was a painter influenced by religion. “At first, I vehemently denied it. When I was invited to paint for the once-in-10-years viewing of Saint Francis Xavier’s body in Goa—along with 25 other artists of different faiths—I recreated topics from the Bible. That’s how it all began. My first painting was Christ in a temple driving out all the money lenders!”

WHAT: Mythical Realms by Milburn Cherian
WHERE: Art Musings, Admiralty Building, Colaba
WHEN: Till May 15 from 11 am to 6.30 pm
CALL: 22163339

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