CHENNAI: A tinge of crimson orange lingering between a cloud and mist shrouded Kodaikanal hills. You also see lake views and monochromatic shades of green paint smeared on the canvas of scenic mountains in the works of artist T Sundara Babu at Art Houz.
Talking to CE about his love for landscapes, meaningful lines and forms, the octogenarian narrates how hard it was to get art materials back in the 40s. “Our only source of seeing art on a canvas was when new movies were released. Posters and images of the actors used to be painted and the lantern slides used to intrigue me,” he recalls.
With the availability of only one-side papers, he says that procuring even erasers and pencils were a task. “After 1947, I entered college and studied natural sciences and I chose that because of my love for nature and drawing,” he smiles. Reminiscing his college days, the 85-year-old says that he used to draw diagrams in botany books during his class sessions. “I loved drawing different botanical elements and I used to help everyone and draw for them too,” he beams.
For Babu, expression in art is the most important style. “There are several artists in our country and everyone has a distinct style. But I don’t like to be classified or labelled as one particular kind of artist…all my art works are expressions of myself,” he says and points to a 1999 parting of the sea. “They are just water in different forms. But how we express it matters the most,” she shares.
With a plethora of art works on mountains, trees, clouds and the sea on the gallery walls, he grins as we ask about his love for nature. “Looking and interacting with nature makes me forget my worries. Just look at the clouds, they are so soothing!” he shares and recalls an incident. “I had visited Top Slip sometime back. But I didn’t get permission from the forest department…so while I was wondering, I sketched the forest ranger in 15 minutes. He was so elated that he decided to take me inside the forest!”
As we walk through the gallery, we notice that several of his paintings don’t have his signature. We ask why and he says that he merely copied nature and doesn’t want to take ownership for that. “When that thought hit me…I stopped signing my paintings. In fact, I am not interested in selling my paintings,” he says, as a visitor interrupts and asks, “Then what’s the use of having so many paintings?” and he replies, “I give it as a heritage and legacy for my children and grandchildren,” he says.
Calling his ‘lady love and better half’, his support and inspiration, he walks us to a painting of a woman holding a flower and says, “I dedicated this painting to my wife on our 50th wedding anniversary. Whenever I paint she travels with me…however difficult it might be. While she sits reading books, I paint,” he shares and quips about an incident where he dipped his paint brush in a cup of coffee which his wife had kept, unintentionally of course!
At 85, Babu still paints everyday and says that it’s like meditation and yoga for him. “Though I cannot paint big canvases…I do as much as I can. But there are days when I struggle to find a subject to paint. On those days, I don’t force myself and I let it go with the flow. Forcing is not the way through which art flows…you need to be at ease. I listen to music whenever I need some inspiration,”
Sundara Babu’s art works ‘Being to Becoming’ will be on display at Art Houz, Alwarpet till today from 11 am to 7 pm. For details, call: 24992173