A Temple Tour, in Watercolour !
Columns, Over A Cup of Evening Tea

A Temple Tour, in Watercolour !

January 14, 2024

By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD

A little more than a week ago, I read in very small print, an announcement in Star of Mysore that said an exhibition of watercolour paintings was being held at Coffee City, the relatively new gallery café in the Hebbal suburb of our city.

Being a fledgling or more rightly, a struggling, self-taught watercolour painter myself, I decided to visit the place and accompanied by my wife who is my art critic, I spent some time browsing the exhibits there. Although the café itself was full, there were hardly any visitors at the adjoining picture gallery, which was indeed rather sad but not very surprising.

I say this because I have been seeing over the years, that while events like textile or jewellery exhibitions and clearance sales of household goods and garments, offering real and even fake discounts, attract huge jostling crowds, areas like art, culture and literary events take a back seat and they usually have very anaemic attendance. While I feel that this attitude should change, I do not see much change in it, which is what makes it sad.

The solo exhibition was of about fifty watercolour paintings done by a young lad, Chetan Chukki, hailing from the nearby temple town of Talakad, whose parents, from an agrarian background, are now settled at Anekal, a small town near Bengaluru. Chetan happens to be a final year student of the Sree Kalanikethana College of Visual Art in our city. Perhaps because of his rural background and more importantly because of his origin from Talakad, a temple town of very historic significance, where ancient temples abound, most of the paintings he had displayed at the show were of small temples or their surrounding rural landscapes, depicting very quaint and charming village homesteads, which made them a treat to the eyes. 

None of the paintings featured any large or even famous temples that most of us know about and whose architecture we admire, as being representative of the many dynasties that make up the checkered history of our subcontinent. Except for a few, depicting some of the more well-known edifices that abound at Hampi or the temple town of Melkote, almost all the temples that have found a place in Chetan’s paintings, happen to be unknown and unseen but very enchanting structures, scattered across the hidden reaches of our State, hardly accessible to, or visited by mainstream tourists and travellers.

Because it is forlorn and ‘lost-to-the-world’ places like these which my wife and I love to explore on lazy Sunday mornings, we could immediately feel at home at the tiny art expo and connect with what it showed! I felt that Chetan’s forte, apart from his interest in the rural countryside, was the way he had laid his subtle washes in continuous tones, which is the hallmark of the art of watercolour painting and the quality of which makes or mars an artist’s work. This is also the most difficult part in watercolour work, where, unlike with other media, there is absolutely no way a painter, however capable, can correct his or her mistakes.

I must admit here that this is the area which is the most difficult to master for any student of watercolour art and sadly the area where I am still rather weak. So, every art show I visit, I treat as a learning experience and thankfully, there was much that I could learn from Chetan’s work and style too, in the very short time I spent viewing it!

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Another one of his strengths, which you can see from his paintings I’ve shown here, is that he is a ‘minimalist’, which means that he has a very good ability to show what he wants to show, with the minimum depiction of details, leaving the discerning viewers’ minds to see what their eyes often do not! This is another attribute of every good artist, which holds good in the field of photography too, where what is left unshown, is often what is conveyed best!

(Chetan does art assignments too and he can be contacted on Tel: 80955 69980)

An Adieu, to My Jim Corbett!

Last Thursday, I lost one of my best friends, Peter Bahadur Singh, a retired Assistant Executive Engineer, who had served a very long innings in the Karnataka Electricity Board. We knew each other over the last thirty-three years, ever since we met when I was serving as a young and newly-married physician at the very remotely located Holy Cross Hospital in Kamagere, on the edge of what was once considered the dreaded ‘Veerappan Territory’, during the heydays of his inglorious exploits.

My friend was then serving in his equally remote post, at the hydroelectric power generating station at Shivasamudram. And, though the lofty Boodagatta Hill and miles of thickly forested and elephant infested terrain separated our two locations, they were no hindrance to our frequent, long, meetings and musings, over endless cups of tea and some crispy fried snacks.

Although he was more than thirteen years older than me, the difference in our ages never once made either of us feel that we could not be the best of friends. And, his age too never made him once feel that he was no longer a boy to be doing the things that he did. That is why on many occasions, after completing his morning walk, he would be found ringing our doorbell, well before dawn and also before we had even unlocked our front gate. And, this he would do most easily, by effortlessly leaping across our compound wall, like a truant schoolboy!

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Two fried eggs, sunny side up, and still a little runny, with three slices of crisp toast, followed by a large mugful of hot coffee, served by my wife, would serve as his most favourite breakfast. Having been the son of a forester and an avid hunter in his younger days, when hunting was perfectly legal, he had by the time we met, given up hunting completely and become a passionate conservationist like the legendary Jim Corbett, whose conversion story too was no different.

But he continued to be an ‘Armchair Hunter’ and an articulate raconteur of hunting stories, all his life, which is what made him a great favourite at gatherings and parties. You just had to ignite the storytelling spark in him and he would forget the present world, taking you decades back and narrating shikar stories as if they had happened yesterday!

Having imbibed by his father’s side, the jungle lore that came to him automatically from a very young age, he was a great naturalist too, knowing the ways of all the denizens of the jungle. In addition to being an excellent marksman, he had a phenomenal knowledge of ballistics and guns, including their technical details and was a good repository of information in that field.

A very passionate and devoted family man, he loved to have all his friends and loved ones around him always.

We will all miss him dearly now. May his noble soul rest in peace. Amen!

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