Thursday, March 6, 2008

An Artistic Bandy

The guy who painted the mural featured in my last post is Natesh.

I’ve known him for years now. I met him at the Alliance Francaise de Madras where I was learning French and generally hanging out. The path breaking Tamil theatre group “Koothu-p-pattarai” used to rehearse in the auditorium on the top floor. I knew most of the gang because I used to dabble in some French language amateur theatre and we all had common friends. Natesh was an occasional visitor at the rehearsals then. Much later I learnt that he is the son of Na. Muthuswamy, the founder of “Koothu-p-pattarai”. (click on images to enlarge)

Natesh is a loud mouth, uses a lot of profanity (“votha” “koo…” f.'s.., b's..., et al), has a refreshing lack of decorum and is a genuine iconoclast.

My favourite story about him dates to the time when he was a student at the Madras College Of Arts and Crafts. As narrated by Natesh, apparently the Lalit Kala Akademy organized a painting exhibition in Delhi. I’m not sure if this is an annual affair, but the Akademy wanted to buy some of the best works on display for its collection. The selectors or judges or jury or whatever, one of whom was the late artist K.M. Adimoolam, decided to buy Natesh’s painting. The prices were usually placed on a small sticker at the back of the painting and when the judges turned the painting over to find out the price they found that it was a little too good a bargain for their “artistic” sensibilities.

Natesh had priced his painting at “3 p” (three paise)!!!

The jury were so offended that they not only did not buy the painting but also kind of unofficially black-listed Natesh. He tells me that Adimoolam did not speak to him for ten years after that incident.

I wish I had been at that exhibition to grab that painting! When I called him last week he said that for his current exhibition, he has priced his canvases at 1.5 L each! I believe that this is still an amazing bargain because, for me, Natesh is a genius.

Another small but not insignificant factoid about Natesh – he never signs his paintings or drawings on the front. He might sometimes sign them on the frame at the back. Now, you tell me what that tells you about the guy.

And, here’s a sub-factoid on the same subject: I once was lucky enough to have the luxury of choosing about half a dozen pencil and charcoal drawings for myself from one of his sketch-books. I had the joy of flipping through almost a hundred of his drawings and picking and choosing what I wanted. And, imagine this - I had the privilege of demanding of Natesh that he sign the ones I chose. He did.

I have posted pictures of some of them. Not sure if you can notice the signatures.

I also have some of his original drawings for poster designs and a wooden "liquor trolley" kind of contraption created by him. I’ll try and get pictures of those too.

If you visit his website there is an article by Sadanand Menon on Natesh and his recently concluded exhibition of new canvases - “Missing Link(at the very same Lalit Kala Akademi, Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi 110001. From the 5th to the 11th of March 2008. Gallery Nos. 7 & 8. 11am to 7pm.)

I accept that Sadanand has described Natesh and his angst-driven existence better than I perhaps ever can. I quote from the article: Here is a youngster who, with his anarchic intuition, has consistently resisted all the pitfalls of career, success, fame and contentment. It is as if he sets out everyday, in his own inimitable way, to ask himself, “What crime or infamy am I going to support today?” and then sets about consciously working against it – almost working against himself, as it were.

That’s Natesh for you, a true-blue, in-your-face, screw-you, “real art, no fart” bandicoot!
p.s. The mural was painted on the ceiling of the foyer at the Alliance Francaise, Madras and easily measured more than 20 feet X 10 feet. It was recently white-washed by "executive decision".

1 comment:

  1. To put it in true Natesh style - everrryvone will have sommmething to talk maame! I guess that goes for all who know Natesh. There's always an escapade or episode that tickles your undersides to talk about Natesh. But... but... let him paint for a while. Bugger is at last making some money, seriously. Na.Mu am sure is proud of him now!