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Colourful dreams

R. Madhavan Nair

`Open Eyed Dreams' hopes to promote art and artists in Kerala.

Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

DREAMS ON CANVAS: A scene from an exhibition on contemporary Indian art.

"We must sleep with open eyes/... we must dream with our hands," wrote Mexican poet Octavio Paz.

This is what artists featured in an exhibition, organised by the art promotion agency `Open Eyed Dreams' in Kozhikode, have done.

They were sleeping and dreaming with eyes wide open and transferring colourful fantasies on to a canvas with deft strokes of the brush dipped in myriad colours.

The exhibition that showcases the works of some of the leading contemporary artists has been organised in association with VNM Diamonds, at a art gallery opened by the diamond merchants in their building near Palayam Road.

This is the second programme in Kozhikode of Open Eyed Dreams. It has already held three shows at Durbar Hall in Kochi since its launch in 2002.

The agency is engaged in finding new talent and promoting artists, while finding markets for their works.

"Artists need the support of professional art promoters to find buyers for their works." says Dilip Narayan of Open Eyed Dreams.

The number of artists on the agency's list of clients has grown from eight, when it started, to 40 in Kerala. Proof of this is the presence of paintings by Vasudev and Baby Xavier in the drawing rooms of art lovers in Kochi where it had held shows recently.

According to the agency, Baby Xavier, Vasudev, Aziz T.M. , Achuthan Kudallur, and Yusuf Arakkal are among the artists who are popular among the growing number of art collectors in Kerala.

Lack of patronage

A common refrain heard among artists has been about the lamentable lack of patronage from corporate institutions and the moneyed class.

The agency considers its initiative in Kozhikode a pointer to the growing interest in the corporate world to promote art. Shristhi Art Gallery, situated near the Tagore Centenary Hall, is also a private initiative that came up recently to supplement the limited facilities for artists that has been arranged by Kerala Lalitakala Akademi at its Art Gallery near the Town Hall.

The city's art scene has always been vibrant. Proof of it is the large turnout witnessed in painting competitions for children that take place quite frequently.

Need for markets

"Well-organised art shows in well-lit art galleries with facilities for proper display of paintings are needed to create a high-end market for paintings," says Dilip Narayanan.

Some of the paintings on show at the show at the VNM gallery are for the upper crust art lover.

Examples are V. Viswanadan's untitled work priced at Rs. 4 lakhs; Vasudev's `She worshippers' ( Rs.1.50 lakhs); Yusuf Arakkal's untitled work (Rs. 1.20 lakhs) and Jitin Das's water colour paintings `Approaching', `Waiting' and `Released' (Rs. 1 lakh each).

But art promoters are confident that sustained efforts to expose the art-loving public to brilliant works of art is a sure method to build up a market for paintings.

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