The exhibition, titled Dreams of Colours, features 54 paintings by Kottayam Nazeer and will run till October 20.

Dreams of Colours Actor Kottayam Nazeers art exhibition inaugurated in Kochi
news Art Wednesday, October 03, 2018 - 16:05

Most people know Kottayam Nazeer only as a talented mimicry artist and film actor. But if his ongoing art exhibition at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi is any indication, he has another, perhaps hitherto hidden talent as well: painting.

The exhibition, titled Dreams of Colours, features 54 paintings by Kottayam Nazeer. They include a few watercolour and acrylic paintings, as well as 40 oil paintings. Many of the paintings feature animals and senior citizens, in addition to several paintings of scenery. Most intriguingly, the exhibition features three “illusory paintings”, or paintings with motifs, symbols and other objects hidden in them, like a painting of a tiger’s face which, upon closer inspection, reveals eyebrows consisting of delicately curved swans.

Kottayam Nazeer told TNM that he’s been working on the paintings being currently exhibited for about 5 or 6 years, but reveals that he's had a lifelong interest in painting. “Before I entered mimicry, I was a professional artist. In Trivandrum, I used to do portraits when I was very young, and studied the basics of painting for three years after SSLC at AP Arts School.”

“I had a taste for painting because I was an artist before entering mimicry. I thought it was time to brush the dust off those skills now, especially when I saw some work by contemporaries, and had some encouragement from others who saw some of the work I did in my free time.”

When asked about the inspiration behind his subject matter, he tells us a bit about his particular artistic style. “I have drawn what I like. There are paintings of animals, birds, sceneries, and aging wrinkled faces, among others. My work is very realist. There are only a few works that come from my imagination, or rather you can say, where I have brought out or uncovered some of the visuals or feelings I imagined upon seeing something. The rest of my work is very realist, I wanted my work to be understood by everyone. I didn’t want it to be a situation where people come to see my work and end up standing there thaadi kayil pidichitte (scratching their beards) and wondering what this is. So, I’ve done very realistic paintings that everyone will understand.”

Speaking about his illusory paintings, he says, “I was inspired by some paintings by English artists, where you think it is or looks like one simple thing, but if you look carefully you see hidden images within it. Even on social media, you see such pictures, say, pictures of trees where there are actually hidden figures or faces amongst them. So, I thought I would like to do a few like that. I downloaded an image of a panther, and I felt I saw many hidden figures lurking in the black and white hairs, in the shadows. So, I tried to draw it in my own way, showing many different animals hidden in that image.”

When asked about his artistic influences and inspirations, Kottayam Nazeer says, “I am inspired by the greatest painters, like Michelangelo and Da Vinci. I am a very big fan of their work and have been lucky enough to see some of their paintings first-hand when travelling abroad. I’m also a big fan of Raja Ravi Varma, his paintings are also very realistic.”

Plans for holding this exhibition have been in the works for over two years now. The co-ordinator of the show, Asif Ali Komu, says that Kottayam Nazeer attended the Sheela and Sheela art exhibition, featuring work by the entrepreneur Sheela Kochouseph Chittilappilly and the actor Sheela, that Asif had organised back in December 2015. When Asif and Nazeer met and spoke there, they decided they should work together to orchestrate this show. When asked exactly what about Nazeer’s work he found striking or unique, Asif says, “His work is influenced in a way by his mimicry. You can see the unique emotionality and expressions he perceives from various beings, animals and individuals, very clearly in his paintings.”

On the second day of the exhibition, gallery officials say Dreams of Colours has already received a heavy influx of visitors. The exhibition was inaugurated on October 2 by over 50 luminaries, including actor Salim Kumar, director Siddique, MLA Dr Muneer, MP KV Thomas and Riyas Komu (founder of Kochi Muziris Biennale), among others. Asif mentions that many Malayalam superstars, including Mohanlal and Mammootty, had extended their support to Kottayam Nazeer’s exhibition through video messages. Given that the inauguration was held on Gandhi Jayanti, the inauguration also involved the unveiling of a large painting of Mahatma Gandhi done by Kottayam Nazeer. The exhibition will continue till October 20.

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