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19 May 2024, Edition - 3232, Sunday

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Koodal Kannan: A kolam expert speaks

Umaima Shafiq


Art has no dimension according to Koodal Kannan, a multi-talented artist who uses kolam art form on varied mediums like floor, wall, tiles and even water to create lifelike paintings and portraitures of live and inanimate models.

He tells The Covai Post, “My name Koodal means junction in Tamil and I live in an area of that name in Madurai. My father was my guru, a fine painter and intricate wood carver. We are Vishwakarmas, the ancient sect that specialised in wood, metal, gold, steel and stone carvings. We are the wood carving group. I have studied only till Class X in a very simple school, but have been painting from my teens. I learnt it by stages and perfected my craft in sketching, imagery, portraiture and finally painting on any medium. Rangoli art is my specialisation and whatever any painter can do on paper, I can replicate it with ‘kola podi’.

He said, “Our Tamil tradition specifies ‘dot’ kolam, a pattern based on calculation and drawing that I have not studied. Instead, I use kola podi in Rangoli designs for drawing portraits of live models, gods and goddesses, national leaders, scenery and other images in three-dimensional (3D) effect. I can draw with both hands, within a short span of time and also on top of water. Another talent is to write copperplate and calligraphic letters of any Indian or foreign language alphabet with Rangoli kolam. I am yet to find anybody who can write letters like me. Also I can write sentences backward/forward and upward/downward in Tamil in Rangoli art form.”

Koodal Kannan has painted for functions and temple festivals in many districts of Tamil Nadu. “In Coimbatore I have drawn kolam drawings at Meenakshi Mahal on Avinashi Road and the Purandaradasar mandapam at Sri Rathna Vinayagar Temple in RS Puram among others. I am often hired to paint kolam drawings for weddings, either of the couple, their families or the guests. I charge per day or hour. Such opportunities come either through event management companies or from individuals. I owe my income to the talent and support of my aged parents,” he says.

Koodal Kannan also runs tuition classes for willing learners at his house in Madurai and at students’ homes. “I have also given lectures on art at schools and colleges and can conduct crash courses anywhere in India and abroad provided my fees are covered. Although I do have social media pages in Facebook and Youtube, people won’t hire us unless we have some media or film exposure. Many will compare and bargain to cut down our labour charges. This is hurting, I just wish that they would realise how hard it is to create,” he says.

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