ABDUL LATHEEF NAHA
Kerala Lalithakala Akademi brings to light the works of T.K. Patmini, considered the first woman artist from Kerala.
"My beloved niece, you have given something to this world. A time will come when the world recognises your contribution. Then your soul will laugh merrily, and I will join your happiness by gluing myself to your soul."
Those words, penned by T.K. Divakara Menon in 1969, proved prophetic. Recognition has come at last for T.K. Patmini, the Malayali artist who died in May 1969. Kerala Lalithakala Akademi brought out a monograph on Patmini recently.
When Patmini displayed her paintings in Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai in the 1960s, she was known in the art circles as the first and only woman artist from Kerala. But after her death at the age of 29, Patmini seemed to have vanished into oblivion. K.V. Dayanandan, an executive member of the Akademi, says that the people of Kerala owe her an apology for neglecting her contribution to the art world. "Our attempt is to restore to the artist the pride of place she deserves," he says.
A function held at Patmini's ancestral home at Kadancheri, Tavanur, near Ponnani, recently marked the beginning of that attempt. The monograph was released on the occasion and Divakara Menon, her uncle, donated two of her paintings to Varnam Art Gallery, the only art gallery in Malappuram.
Patmini's classmate and novelist C. Radhakrishnan, and childhood friend and short story writer E. Harikumar took the gathering down memory lane when Patmini's artistic talent blossomed during the days she spent at picturesque Tavanur.
In art galleries
No one knows how many paintings Patmini had done during her lifetime. But most of her works have found a place in the Durbar Art Gallery of the Lalithakala Akademi in Kochi, National Gallery of Modern Art in Chennai, and Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. The last of her works, a child flying a kite, is kept at her house in Kadancheri.
Patmini's images go beyond the visible colours and shapes. As Savithri Rajeevan, art critic and poet, puts it, Patmini communicated a lot through her paintings. She dealt with women and nudity; but they were never reduced to mere symbols of carnality.
They represented the quintessence of women yearning for freedom.
Patmini experimented with all media. Yet, she carved a niche for herself. She boldly took art lovers away from the realism of Raja Ravi Varma. And wherever she went, she was showered with accolades. However, she was soon forgotten by the art world after her death.
The Akademi, after 36 years, is trying to compensate for the injustice done to her.
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