Today, youngsters do not take up fine arts as a profession and even if a minority do, their preference is western contemporary art. Therefore it is a pleasant surprise to hear that a young artist had been involved in the Thanjavur Tamil University publication (2010) on the Chola murals of the Brihadeeswara temple. The work was done by Prof. Chandrasekaran and he was assisted by Elanchezhiyan.
Elanchezhiyan does not have long hair, pierced ears or the shoulder bag that most artists of today have, instead he has a quiet sense of determination to do his bit to keep the traditional style of painting in Tamil Nadu alive.
Born in 1984 in a farming community, he studied in a small school near Mayiladuthurai and took to drawing at a young age. “I can't remember what got me interested in this but I suppose one reason was my drawing teacher, who told me that I draw well and must study at the Arts College in Kumbakonam.” He passed out of the college in 2005 and worked for a few years doing illustrations for books, including novels, and animation. “I liked the work and the regular monthly income, but I wasn't happy with the western style and thought that it might be better to freelance,” he says, explaining his current position.
Freelancing gives him a lot of freedom and recognition. He is doing some work by illustrating the ‘Silapadikkaram,' which is a huge effort since he also has to learn about the costume, texts and architecture of that time to make his drawing authentic.
He says, “The work on the Chola murals was an unforgettable experience, since there is so much to learn from Prof. Chandru and no one has ever recreated the complete paintings as they would have been in the Chola period. I also learnt how much a line can speak, depending on its thickness, colour and shape. I have also illustrated some Tamil classics for publishers and have done some book illustrations and drawings as well.”
He hopes that more people will appreciate the traditional style, especially in children's books. So many of the myths, gods and goddesses can be the subjects in colouring books and even fruits and birds drawn in “our style” instead of the western one.
He also occasionally gets private commissions and sometimes the sponsor asks for a customised composition.
If there is a confluence of styles – Pallava, Chola, Nayak, it's an opportunity to learn how to blend everything into a harmonious creation.
“This kind of work takes more time and research and therefore is expensive, but I am yet to meet someone who says it's not worth it because I believe our traditional style of painting is timeless!” he says in parting.
(Elanchezhiyan can be contacted at 9884406922 / Elancheziyans@gmail.com)
Thank you so much for this arctile, it saved me time!