COVID 19 Pandemic has gripped the whole world in its clutches and the unexpected spread of the disease has brought human life to a standstill. Online art exhibitions became popular as a means to overcome the situation of not having a gallery to display the artist’s talents.
The online painting exhibition entitled ‘Prayathnam’ (Perseverance) announced the female presence in the new social media platform. The thirty paintings on canvas included in this exhibition, were painted during the pandemic and was selected from thousands of paintings. The exhibition which started on 25 September and ended on the 24th of October 2020, showcased 30 paintings at the rate of a painting a day. This novel initiative drew the attention of people from different walks of life. The exhibition was inaugurated by Nemom Pushparaj, Chairman of the Kerala Lalithakala Academy, and was followed by nearly eight thousand art lovers.
Jayasree Venugopal from Ernakulam is the first online painter and digital artist. In the year 2002. Lathadevi. N.B from Thrissur organised a joint exhibition online. Thus, online exhibition is not a new idea. However, what makes Priya Manaojan’s initiative different is that she organised a month-long online art exhibition. The benefit of viewing the paintings over and over again leisurely at one’s own convenience makes online exhibitions more advantageous than gallery exhibitions. Counting more on the advantages, the viewer can interact with the artist during the exhibition, in turn creating a strong link from a distance.
While glancing at the disadvantages of online exhibition, the most important concern raised is that the art lover can’t watch and enjoy the real painting. In fact, the opinion raised is genuine but during the time of Pandemic the helpless artist has no other means to exhibit and sell her work to overcome the financial constraints.
Paintings of priya manojan-
Priya Manojan has become an active presence in the field of creative art for two decades. She has fruitfully utilised her time during her study of fine arts and has to her credit thousands of creative paintings. She has adopted different styles and techniques thorough out.
Her masterpieces can be categorised as 21st century creativity. Her paintings have incorporated the nature, life and humans that she has been exposed to during her childhood and adolescence. Her paintings depict a cross section of the various episodes in life like scenes from nature, tsunami, COVID, cattle series etc, which come under different genres of collage, graphics and murals.
Priya has immense skill in handling diverse media like pencil, watercolour, oil, acrylic and has also tried wall paintings. She has attempted mixed media in some of her paintings. Even then her mastery is in oil on canvas. She has also experimented on the possibilities of media paintings. Preparing collage on canvas by spreading coir powder over oil paitings before the painting dries off, is an example of her innovative techniques. Her coffee paintings, ceramic paintings etc have attracted the attention of the public. Priya creates the ambience using subtle combinations of saffron, bluish green and indigo and her palette is full of soft colours which create a soothing impact on the viewer. She possesses the insight to relate that saffron, bluish green and brown burned amber are the by-product of the greenery around. The blue in majority of her paintings is azure. Many factors have inspired and contributed into the artist’s sense of colour. Mural paintings have created its ripples in Kerala a century ago. World famous artists from Kerala, A Ramachandran and C.N. Karunakaran have been inspired by murals and developed individualistic modern styles. After graduating in arts in the year 2001, Priya Manojan joined Govt. Women’s College as an Art Instructor in the Continuing Education section. During this period, she got the chance to observe and learn mural painting. This exposure might have influenced and created an affinity to subdued colours She has also attempted a few murals. She adorns her drawing room with a mural in acrylic “Sreekrishnum Gokkalum” (lord Krishna and the cows 75×185 cm). Her use of subdued colours distinguish her from the other contemporary women painters. She has travelled and changed her techniques with times. Tsunami,The calamity that shook us in 2005, was captured by her in her paintings and she tried to duplicate the pain and agony experienced. A three day exhibition entitled “Tsunamikkushosham’ (After Tsunami) a solo exhibition heldat the Thiruvananthapuram Museum Auditorium, exhibited all her paintings in this serie5 along with a few collage, sketches and graphic paintings. Priya’soil painting ‘Adverse Effect of Covid (60×55 cm) has well absorbed the restrictions in life due to COVID 19 and its aftermath. The characters in her work, wearing mask and at service are mostly women. The greenery in the background represent hope and optimism for the future. The execution of the theme shows her commitment to the society and wins ones heart and soul. Lion’s share of Priya’s paintings are on feminine themes highlighting their dreams and disappointments, affections and emotions, loneliness and alienation. The strong and intense colours bring out their life in its full intensity. The presence of women in every walk of life is etched realistically, ranging from childhood to old age, of which five women faces, vague and blurred, are a strong expression of their agony and pain. Settings and scenes highlighting these feelings have been employed like under the tree by the riverside, waiting at the doorstep in the dim light of a burning kerosene lamb, amidst the smoke in the kitchen, at market place, at the work place, spinning coir etc. Women are omnipresent, those the painter has observed keenly, from school life to COVID times. Her rather obsessive inclination to womanhood is most emphatic in the depiction of pregnant women. To the painter, ‘pregnancy is synonymous to purity and sanctity, through which both sustenance of human life and the culmination of the laws of nature are ensured. Motherhood is respected by the pain she undergoes and the way in which she cuddles and nurtures a new life’. .Many artists have used pregnancy as a symbol. K.C.S Paniker has titled one of his painting in tempera medium as ‘prasavaashupathrikku munnille garbhinikal’ (pregnant women in front of a hospital), displayed in K.C.S.Paniker gallery, Thiruvananthapuram. Priya Manojan has named her works Maternity 1,2,3 and on comparing the period of these paintings it can very well be equated to her life and one can easily understand that she herself is the protagonist in the paintings.
Various schools of paintings in different periods that have evolved with time have influenced Priya’s creativity and thought process. This is not deliberate but an inevitable influence. Influences of great minds and masters do find a place in the artists mind and find expression at times, at different junctures. Modern thantrik art, evolution, bhramasutram etc are a few. Her painting pookallum poompattayum (flowers and butterflies) and an unnamed work have been influenced by Impressionism. Even though flowers and butterflies are
a common sight in nature, she ascribes a different shape to them highlighting her emotional and sensual fulfilment on seeing them. A representation of coexistence- red flowers, green leaves, light and darkness.
French artist Claude Monte in 1892 made a painting on the sunrise which paved way for a new movement in painting called Impressionism. The yellowish streaks of the rising sun splashing myriad colours after reflecting itself on the water surface is what Monet depicted in his work, a combination of the primary colours yellow,.red and blue. Later painters all over the world got atracted to Impressionism. Painters from Kerala too were no exception. Priya Manojan’s paintings show her awareness of great artistic movements of the past. She is also influenced and inspired by the modern movements in art. Collages are a combination of oil and other media. For Priya it is oil paint and coir dust, the best example is the collage ‘Carrying'(80x50cm). A distant influence of surrealism is visible in her works. Surrealism has been a strong influence in art, after the popularity of Pablo Picasso in the 20th century. This movement propagated by the Spanish painter Salvador Dali had its impact on the painters from Kerala too. Priya’s ‘The Last moments of Mahatmaji’ (90x65cm) follows this genre and the central character is painted Indigo blue. The human figures in the background are painted in burnt umber. In traditional Kerala style of mural art, men of greatness are portrayed in green and blue to glorify their position.
Graphic Arts is included in the syllabus of the Fine Arts College. Technically speaking this is a modified version of block making used in printing .Blocks are made to the artists’ imagination, colour is spread on the blocks and printed on paper. Linocut which is a modern style in art, is the practise of chiselling designs on plywood, pressed against metal surfaces. Priya Manojan, during her college life and career has produced many novel and unique creations using this technique. Many of her works in graphic art, in print and exhibited, have been well appreciated. Priya with her lines and curves have influenced and initiated the spring of contemporary paintings. She has created a world of her own with her simplicity and controlled and composed use of colours. Her works reflect the stark realities of life, which make her a common man’s painter.
The Goat Stories
History of art, down the ages, has supported the idea of painters showing a special interest in a particular creature in their series. M.F Hussain (1915-2011) was fascinated by horses. Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh was known for his ‘sunflower series’ and Claude Monet (1840-1926) was the painter of lilies. Keralite A.Ramachandran was noted for his lotus series. Cartoonist R.K. Lakshman was known for his love of crows. Sculptor Henry Moor’s goat series was a visual treat. Priya Manojan has an affinity to painting goats, which in fact is an inevitable part of village life. The wild goat species Nilgiri Tahr is on the verge of extinction. The practice of sacrificing goats for religious rituals existed in our society until recent times can’t be ignored. There are plenty of proverbs and worldly wisdoms related to goats. Goats are easily domesticated and petted that is one of the reasons many works of literature and movies are produced with goats being characters like “Pathummayude Aadu’ and the movie named ‘Aadu
Priya appears to have a special liking for goats with long ears and no horns, the ‘hybrid variety’. They are characterised as mother, children and siblings in her works. Her twelve paintings in the series include ‘mother goat’ (80x60cm), ‘brothers’ (25x35cm), ‘village scene’ (120x60cm), ‘etching’ (30x28cm) oil on canvas. She maintains the proportion well and also duplicates the physical aspects in nature. The two paintings portraying a lady in white hugging a kid (a young one of a goat) and the second one kissing it, bring in a perfect blend of skill and imagination. The painting ‘brothers’ depict the brotherhood of a white and a brown goat, the brown goat is seen resting its head on the white. The barren hills in the background adds on to the scenic beauty. In some the goats are done as portraits.
Born on 25th may 1979, at Murukkumpuzha, Thiruvananthapuram, as the eldest daughter of Sri. Prabhakaran and Smt. Ambika, Priya completed her schooling at St.Augustine High School. She inherited her artistic bent from her mother’s side and her childhood was filled with colours. Her maternal grandfather Sri. Gangadharan Vaidyan was a famous Ayurvedic medic and wood sculptor, from whom she learned the basics of painting further keenly developed and supported by her family and Hindi teacher Shri Ravindran. Her interest in art grew with age and she opted for fine arts as her subject for higher studies. She joined College of Fine Arts in the year 1997 and was trained by veterans like M. Sanathanan (Principal), Prof. Kattoor Narayan Pillai, art historian Ajaya Kumar and Chitra Bhanu, She is the recipient of the Kerala Lalitha Kala Academy award and graduated from the prestigious institute in second position in the year 2001. In 2002, She joined College for Women in the Department of Continuing Education as a Teacher of Arts. In 2006 she joined Govt. Sanskrit College and has also served as art teacher in Bethany Senior Secondary School. She was awarded the Best Art teacher award by Indira Gandhi Ganpath (Aurangabad).
She got married in the year 2001 to Manojan, took the name Priya Manojan and settled in Chempazhanthy. She is blessed with two kids Krishna Dev and Kashi Dev Her kids show keen interest in art and are inspired and influenced by her.
Chempazhanthy is the store house of spirituality and is blessed by the birth of the social reformer Sree Narayana Guru. The manthras of Sree Narayana Guru reverberates the Vayalvaram house. This spiritual serenity and the simplicity of Priya Manojan find its culmination in her works. Simplicity and humility together form her personality. A talented artist with a divine touch, a model teacher, a duty-bound housewife, a hardworking artist, all these qualities describe Priya well.
She is an artist who follows her convictions rather than blindly following rules imposed by tradition. She never chases recognition or awards. Her attachment to art is purely her inner call and not for worldly and materialistic gains. Majority of her works raise her opinion on women empowerment. The paintings with deep and dark colours depict the power of womanhood and their stories.
Priya is not ready to hold tightly on tradition nor is she boasting on modernity. She keeps a distance from such mundane politics. She stands out in the crowd She is always ignited and continues with the quality work that she has done in the past .Moving into family ways never created hindrance in her productivity. Very often we find women leaving behind all their talents for their families. this makes Priya an exception. Works of her childhood and college days together cover two decades of dedication and active presence in the world of arts.