Kerala has never been scarce in the number of talented and skilled artists. Almost all villages in the State is being recognised by at least one artist it has produced. This artistic affluence is the reason why artists from Kerala are being known across the world time to time. Here is one young, spirited mural artist from Atholi, a village in Kozhikode district, who has recently been chosen for the annual young artist fellowship by the Ministry of Culture for the year 2014-15. Apart from being an exponent in mural artistry, V. M. Jijulal, 37, is also one among a handful of artists in India, who excelled in the art and science of art conservation.
“My passion for art was never stagnant. Even as practising as a mural artist, having worked at almost all the nook and cranny of this State, I always craved to do something more, something different. My foray into the art of conservation was the result of this craving,” Jiju, as he is fondly being called by his friends, reminisced.
Jiju kick-started his art conservation projects in 2003 with the mural works at Ananthapuram temple in Kasargod. The mural art inside the Sanctum Sanctorum had almost faded and the temple authority wanted to renovate. Jiju, who was trained in mural art at Guruvayur Devaswom Chumar Chitra Padana Kendram, took up the challenging work as he knew it was the apt job to test his expertise in the art.
“I could do the job with near perfection and it gave me a confidence to try more in conservation. I knew there were only a few who are trained in art conservation. So I felt it is the right area where I can contribute greatly,” he said. Later, Jiju joined a Noida-based company specialising in conservation. “It was in 2006 and I got a chance to interact with my seniors there who were highly skilled in this art. Conservation is entirely different from creating something on your own. You need to get completely immersed into the original artists’ idea. It demands great thorough process and research. The first project I did after joining the company at Noida was a Buddhist monastery in Leh-Ladakh. It was Thangka style painting, which is the mural art form seen in Buddhist monasteries,” he said. His life at Noida was becoming more and more thrilling with each day giving him an opportunity to experiment with something new.
“One day a group of officials from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research approached us. They wanted to re-sketch a faded M. F. Hussain paper art. It was a Ganapathy drawing. I was assigned with the task. To get that opportunity of re-sketching the work of a genius like Hussain was highly motivating. I applied all my skills and experience and it came out appealing. This instilled more confidence in me.”
It paved the way for Jiju to try more in paper art conservation. Slowly he mastered conservation of miniature as well. Jiju has already completed the conservation work at 20 locations in Kerala and more number outside the State including those at churches, temples and monasteries. “There is a mosque in Kottayam where there are depleted Daru sculptures. I heard the mosque authority is planning to renovate. If I get a chance, it would be a great pleasure,” smiled Jiju when he disclosed one of his dreams. His work at an Orthdox Church at Paliekkara, where his team renovated 13 panels of around 200-year-old paintings of Jesus Christ depicting various incidents in his life, have been greatly applauded by art enthusiasts.
Jiju stays at Atholi with his wife Viji and children Jagathlal and Parthiv.