CHENNAI: It’s been three decades since 47-year-old Kumaravel first touched a paintbrush, and he still bubbles with excitement when talking about how it all began. “Wall art,” he says. As an 18-year-old artist seeking a job, he took to painting walls for a living.
For more than a decade, he added colour to walls across the city — walls along arterial roads Anna Salai, smaller lanes in Mylapore and larger spaces near Cook’s Road. Standing precariously on a ledge, he recounts painting hoardings and sign boards.
“A local MLA was pleased with a painting I did back in the 80s. That kick-started my interest in wall art,” he recounts. “I used to work through the week, finishing each project in three or four days. We were kept busy every election year and would make good money even with the 10 per cent commission,” he says.
It has been a long time since he painted a wall in the city. “Its all gone now,” sighs the artist who now runs a studio at Kilpauk where he takes up private work like commissioned portraits.
So where did the artists go? “To work as watchmen or traders. Only a few still practice art. Also, all our unions are now defunct,” he says. But the temple designs and political symbols are still etched in his memory.
“The State should ensure that these old art forms do not vanish. But no initiatives have been taken to give importance to either art or artists,” he adds.