Published: 20th April 2021
These four artists from Kerala travelling across India to tell the stories of its villages, through its canvases
Four friends, who are professional artists, have finally realised their dream of travelling across India and capturing life through their art. Here's how they began their jouney
A seven-year-old dream has finally come true and it’s making its way through our national highways in a rickety old car. Artists and close friends, Vipin Iritty (34), Shyju K Maloor (34), Benny Devassy (40) and Chandran Mottemmal (42), have been on the road for the past two weeks in what has been a life-changing beginning. They have put their everyday lives behind to travel from village to village across every Indian state to literally draw (from) the experiences of the people there.
“We have been professional artists our entire lives,” explains Vipin, “We come from humble backgrounds and have always been dreaming of the chance to go on a journey through India. It was our dream to draw the places we saw and to experience what life is like in each village, understand it and recreate it through our art. We have been to a few places like Haryana and Mumbai to do solo exhibitions in the past, but this will be the first time any of us are doing anything of this magnitude. This dream has been a part of each of us for a long time, but because of financial restrictions and our day jobs, we weren’t able to before.”
EXHIBIT A: The artists organise small exhibitions along their way
He continues, “When the COVID pandemic struck, a thought dawned on us. We realised that to delay what we truly wanted any further would be wrong. With all the darkness that the pandemic had left behind, it felt important in our own lives to do this trip as a way to give back to others who had experienced these hardships and to society as a whole. The intention is to add some colour back into society through art.”
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And true to these words, the friends who call themselves Travel Brush follow the motto ‘Ini ellam colour avatte’ which means ‘Let us add colour to everything’. Having put everything else on hold, the friends began their journey from Kasaragod. While they stay with people who welcome them, a gas cylinder sits in their backseat with which they cook affordable meals for themselves. Over the last few days, they have travelled through Bekal Fort, Kannur Fort, Dharmadom and Meenangadi, a tribal village in Wayanad.
In Meenangadi, they were assisted by the police officers in the village who guided them through the houses of the Adivasi community. Although the community was initially resistant to outsiders, a small exhibition of the trio painting what they saw around them helped the people warm up to them. The elders presented them with food and drinks, and the children watched them draw in awe. Before they left, the youngest members of the village were gifted with paintbrushes and a variety of colours.
ALL IN: The team also interacts with the local people
Vipin says, “We visit each place, try to immerse ourselves in the history and culture of the people there and try to understand what life is like there. And once we have seen this through our own eyes, we draw. We don’t always draw exactly what we see. Most of the time, we include an insight into the history of the place and the people. This is how we go from place to place, stay for a day to absorb it all, before we move on to the next one.”
When we spoke, Vipin and the team had just finished a new exhibition on a beach near Beypore, Kozhikode. With the intention of covering at least two spots in each district, they expect to spend a month covering Kerala alone and to finish 150 paintings in that time. The journey across the rest of the country will take them at least a year and a half. Perhaps 3,000 paintings later, they will manage to add the colour drained by the pandemic back into our streets.