Unconventional style

A recently concluded exhibition at Capital’s Shridharani Gallery displayed art works by the renowned Thiruvananthapuram artist Austin Konchira. Known for his paradigm shift from realistic and surrealistic styles to the use of geometrical shapes, the exhibition witnessed a number of artists and art enthusiasts. The 65-year-old artist, on his fourth visit to the Capital, was excited by the buzz generated by the event.

A work on display at the exhibition

Known for modifying his artistic techniques, Konchira justified his tryst with the unconventional. Painting since 1978, his present methodology has evolved after prolonged periods of experimentation with elongated figures. For him, it was about getting into a peculiar mood driven by an urge to shape figures according to his desire that he egged him to adopt this new style.

A look at the paintings reflects how deeply affected the artist is by his travel experiences. For him, it is all about recreating his travel memories and experiences through his artwork. In one work he depicts colourful huts clustered in minimal space, which he reveals was inspired by his trip to Kashmir. Travelling alone he says gave him more freedom to observe and explore. Deeply fascinated by Coorg, he cites his trekking expeditions to the Brahmagiri hills as a prime inspiration. Besides his travels, Konchira is moved by present day issues. In one work, he shows torching of available resources as a criticism of the Government’s inability to control population explosion.

What seemed unusual were the untitled paintings. On being asked the reason, Konchira said he wanted to allow the viewers freedom to interpret according to their own thinking. According to him, people have different perceptions of things and hence, different views. It would be incorrect for an artist to restrict one’s view. On the subject of freedom of expression through art, he said: “A lot of problems might come if you want independence in the field of arts… freedom must be within limits. It shouldn’t be reckless. Freedom should be given to artists making sure they do not hurt the sentiments of an individual.”

On display were paintings in blue and yellow blended with opposite shades in oil depicting a certain theme or emotion. Talking about the the transition of the base colour from yellow and brown to blue, he refers to the moods and events in his life. He claims to have a more personal view of life now with his wife and daughter are there. Now he is unwilling to go back to the use of “shabby” colours. “Before marriage my life was totally different. I was wandering places that is why you see quite different paintings and shades,” he says. Nevertheless, he does not find loneliness a threat rather a motivation as it offers him greater scope of creativity and expressions.

Passionate about the art, the artist is severely critical of the use of mechanical and electronic tools and commercialization of the art. He finds it reducing the scope of the art form. On the fake market in art and the lessening of art enthusiasts, Konchira says, “some 50 years back, Bengal and Madras school of art never sold their paintings at higher price. They received respect from the society.”

The former professor of history who was unable to complete his education in fine arts firmly believes in deriving the inspiration within oneself. Konchira urged youngsters not to follow a school of art rigidly rather than explore options and develop their own style