KOCHI: Winning this year’s New York-based Adolf-Esther Gottlieb Foundation award was another golden feather on Pradeep Puthoor’s crown. The coveted international award comprising $25,000 (`18.5 lakh) prize money is a recognition for the Thiruvananthapuram-based artist’s impeccable contributions.
He is the first South Indian artist to receive the honour instituted in the memory of renowned US abstract expressionist painter Adolf Gottlieb. Pradeep believes his award will inspire young artists to explore opportunities and dream big. “I evolved as an artist through creative engagements I have been part of over the years.
I use my art to contribute to society and will be utilising the prize money for art-related works only,” says the artist, who is a two-time winner of the Jackson Pollock- Krasner Foundation fellowship. Pradeep’s semi-figurative abstract works portray the world in an eclectic perspective, laced with animals and plants in their natural state. Pradeep works with oil and acrylic on canvas to deliver many shades of magical realism. Being the son of former Kollam district medical officer Dr Puthoor Sukumaran, who was an ayurvedic doctor in Kollam, Pradeep was naturally attracted to human anatomy. ‘Ways of Squeezing’, ‘Temple of Yellow Bones’, ‘Dissection at Night’, and ‘Air Airy’ were inspired by the shapes and structure of the human skeleton, and macro view of organisms and plants.
Observation is key
According to the 55-year-old painter, to know a painting’s soul, you must observe it for at least five minutes. “You have to spend time on it. For me, art is not spontaneous emission of thoughts. Rather, it is a meticulous process where I do research and plan my ideas for months before executing them on canvas. I prefer broad canvases and timeless paintings that do not lose meaning with time,” he says.
Pradeep likes to keep himself updated about art movements and engagements happening around the world. “My perspective on art changed after visiting galleries in the UK, New York and Berlin. I received great exposure during the three-month artist residency program I attended in the UK when I went to receive the British Overseas League award for my work, ‘Mangled Mother’ in 1997. That influenced my life and career as an artist and gave me confidence,” he says.
Pradeep likes drawing more than painting. “I am not into commercial art. I like those who appreciate art, rather than buying a frame to adorn their interiors. If I could make one wish, I would want to call back all the paintings I sold and give them to galleries,” he quips.
Pradeep has exhibited his acrylic painting, ‘This land was our land’, a triptych, at the ongoing contemporary art exhibition, Lokame Tharavadu organised by Kochi Biennale Foundation. “It is a 20X6ft painting that talks about the earth being home to all things alive. Events like this can enrich the art scenario in the state and nurture a space to appreciate art, which we lack here.”