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An Enchanting Journey Paresh Maity’s Kerala

Written by

Ravi Shankar Photography of the Artist at work

Nemai Ghosh Essay on the Artist’s works

R. Siva Kumar

Published by:

Art Alive Gallery S-221 Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110017, India. E-mail: Printed in India at

Thomson Press (India) Limited ISBN: 978-81-901844-7-2 Š Art Alive Gallery 2008 All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopy without permission in writing from the publishers. Copyrights of all the works reproduced rest with the artist, of the photographs with the respective photographers and of the text with the respective authors. Produced by the Custom Publishing Division of Global Media Network, New Delhi.

Kerala has always fascinated me. It is beautiful, lyrical, romantic and mesmerising like my native land. Kerala presents a multitude of magical and captivating images. It’s majestic caparisoned elephants, the endless carpet of green paddy fields, the curving contours of the boats, the fishing nets filtering the sunrays into prisms of translucent lightness, the filigreed pattern of the coconut trees against the charcoal skies pregnant with monsoon and the ethereality of its backwaters. This is a visual memoir of my numerous visits to God’s own country.

The Green Zen – Ravi Shankar


Myth and Magic – Works of Paresh Maity


The Itinerant Painter


Images of an Enchanting Journey – R. Siva Kumar


Kerala Fact File



The Green Zen From the ruined ramparts of St. Angelo’s fort, the ghost of Sir Francisco de Almeiyda stares out into five centuries of history. The roar of the Arabian Sea reaches him in the wind, careening off the cliffs and reminding him of distant cannonade. The coconut groves of Kasargod are dark and bustling with pagan secrets - in the unfurling canvas of the dawn, the Portuguese warships moored in the harbour rock gently to the incessant slap of the waves. Imagination is the restless ghost that haunts history. After wars have transmigrated into ballads, cleansed of blood, gore and pain, monuments take on ethereal, living beauty. Dead kings and queens are not mourned. They sleep in tombs, stare out of statues and paintings as objects of tourist curiosity. Years after sixty million perished in the fog of Zyklon-B--the gold in their teeth pulled out, skins turned into lampshades-and left to rot in mass graves, gawking millions enter the spine chilling safety of modern mausoleums to read the past; in Auschwitz, Lubyanka and New York. The geography of history has its own shoreline. Amidst the ruins of Constantinople, blithe spirits of pagans dance in a night scented with mead and flowers. In Chinese ports of ancient centuries, fishing nets are being loaded, to later be installed in a port city named Cochi. In Jerusalem, centuries before the arrival of the Nazarene who will change the world, the exotic aroma of spices waft from kitchens, spices that have been brought from the


tip of a distant peninsula of another continent. Much like the later Romans, Phoenicians and Arabs, who arrived with sails blooming in the spice winds over the ocean. The ocean is Kerala’s calligrapher. All along its 590 kilometre coast, is scrawled its eternal script. On the sand, the sullen rocks and the salt in the wind. Little signatures of shells lie like scattered secrets on the beach. To read Kerala is to read the sea. And its fables. The fable says the sea is Kerala’s mother. Millennia ago, in a yagna that was savage, proud and resplendent, the warrior sage Parasurama stood on a rocky shore and threw his battleaxe into the ocean. The great weapon, stained with the blood of a million Kshtariyas, turned the water into a brutal sunset. The sea gave up an emerald land, a coalition of green made of coconut groves, endless paddy fields, hedges and meadows. From legend arose the myth of God’s Own Country; a paradise created by a vengeful warrior who is deemed an avatar of Vishnu. The sea interrogates the myth with persistent resonance, “Do you remember?” The painter, with his pitch-black beard and gleaming eyes, indeed remembers. Today, he is Parasurama in the act of genesis, the watercolours engaged in their natal karma. Maity tries to remember that distant moment of birth on the brooding clock face of the monsoon sky. All over the heaving sea, where the horizon vaults into the dark sky, each moment is a moment of rebirth, each brushstroke a kairos of renewal. The monsoon lightning is as abrupt as the painter’s smile. Thunder rumbles above, the sky clearing its throat over a green, wet land by the sea. The renewal of sky and earth, through water. The sea is the mother of the monsoon. The rain knits the sky and the earth. Afterwards, a green quilt spreads over the land like amazing grace. The monsoon is a karma of colour. The charcoal burnt indigo of the monsoon sky, silver sheets of rain, the sullen green of a provoked sea and the dazzling red of the freshly skinned earth, furrowed with gleaming rivulets. Every year, the monsoons erase history, returning Kerala to its primordial state. Time cusps into 52 AD. St. Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of


Jesus Christ, lands at Musiri, on the banks of the Kaveri. The ancient capital of the Chera kings, it’s a digger’s playground today; the earth yields Roman coins, jars and pottery. Coins minted jointly by the Cherans and the Romans reveal the secrets of historic trysts. Musiri is an ancient port, finding mention in the works of Pericles, with the “distance between Musiri and the sea to be around 500 stadia”. Kerala, the land of ports and boats. Maity draws attention to a watercolour painting. It is titled ‘The Nook – Kovalam’. The monsoon sky has arrived on the paper, and a streak of sun invades its frown. The sea is a riddle of darkness. On the shore, streaming horizontally is a cavalry-dash of white foam, frothing along the dark defence of rocks. A fisherman’s boat is moored, like a forgotten piece of verse; empty, yet poignant with passage. A little red flag flutters in the wind like a soul rallying against the might of the monsoon, a tongue of flame in the darkness of a rain swept dusk. “The red also symbolises Communism,” Paresh’s eyes gleam, “red is an intense colour.” Is he a Communist? An emphatic shake of the head answers. “Colour has no barriers,” he says. In the painting, the immensity of the brooding horizon has the power of an unsaid allegory. The waves you see are actually white paper, cunningly left unpainted. A purist’s trick. It is as if the boat is an ancient memory that has washed up on Maity’s shore. Boats have long been part of Kerala’s collective memory; agents of trade and discovery that can be traced back to centuries before the birth of Christ. Paresh Maity grew up in Tamluk, West Bengal. The old name for Tamluk was Tamralipto, famous for its terracotta when the Guptas ruled in 7th century AD. It was an important port on the Eastern Coast, and historical, too. Huen Tsang, the legendary Chinese traveller, alighted there. Paresh invokes Tamluk’s lush green and water-laden sky. For him, the rain and the colour green are the tabula rasa of voyage; the boat the alpha and omega of travel. “The boat has tremendous life,” he says, “even when it is anchored, it keeps moving all the time.” In the restless imagination of the artist’s mind, the boat has become a compelling metaphor to be painted “whenever I see water.” It is to





Myth and Magic Works of Paresh Maity




Onam, Mix Media on Paper, 60” x 55”, 2007





Autumn, Watercolour on Paper, 22 x 24, 2007


Kerala reminds me of Monet’s palette.


I love boats. They are never empty of life. Even when anchored, they keep moving

The Nook – Kovalam, Watercolour on Paper, 40” x 41”, 2007



Contentment, Conte on Paper, 60” x 55.5”, 2008



After the Catch, Watercolour on Paper, 22”x x24”, 2007



After the Catch, Watercolour on Paper, 22”x x24”, 2007



Sound of Silence, Pen & Ink on Paper, 6” x 4”, 2007

True Light, Mixed media on Paper, 60” x 45” 2008



Morning Song, Watercolour on Paper, 40” x 60”, 2007




The Itinerant Painter Travels are a crucial part of Paresh Maity’s life, and travels are the life of Maity’s art. Every place he visits equips him with a new vocabulary. His travels have taken him to Rajasthan, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh in India and Paris, Prague, London, Venice Istanbul and Xi’an (China). Maity has found his own signature through the experiences of his travels. In the words of eminent British art critic, Iain Gail: “Paresh Maity is a man on a voyage – literal, spiritual and deeply personal. His watercolours work by seducing us with their sheer spontaneity and, having caught our attention, hold us transfixed, absorbed by a deep sense of timeless spirituality. While the geographical diversity of his physical journey yields the stimulation of a constantly changing visual cavalcade, it is bound up inextricably with another, inner journey. Here within his creative imagination, the artist is not certain of his destination, nor of what he may meet along the way. What he does know though is that every moment of this extraordinary personal odyssey will be something to relish – another encounter with the richness of the world – to be added to the ever-expanding store of possibilities which make engagement with his art such a wholly memorable and intoxicating experience.”




The sights and sounds of Venice have always fascinated me. I find the inter-play of water and light, water reflected by a single shaft of sunlight dancing on the edge of the gondola very captivating. These scenes inspire me to


pick up the paper and brush.



An Enchanting Journey – Paresh Maity’s Kerala  

Kerala’s beauty has found expression in some of the world’s most popular works including books, films and paintings. ‘An Enchanting Journey’...

An Enchanting Journey – Paresh Maity’s Kerala  

Kerala’s beauty has found expression in some of the world’s most popular works including books, films and paintings. ‘An Enchanting Journey’...