Recently visited a lovely little village that started off in the l960s as a sort of Indian artist commune – the early artists saved money to buy the land by selling handicrafts, and then got a patch of wild land and lived and worked in thatched huts. Back in those “starving artist” days, the artists (I believe they were all men) would go to the nearby fishing village, help fishermen pull in their catch, and come home with free fish. The founder was Paniker, a leader in the Madras Movement, which encouraged artists to meld Indian and abstract art into a unique form of contemporary South India art. The community has and still does contain famous Indian artists who work in all manner of media- weaving, painting, metal sculpture, etc. Today Cholamandal is still going strong, with a lovely little museum and 30 artists’ homes. I noticed a lot of Picasso-esque paintings in the museum with Tamil scenes. The place is a lovely little oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of Chennai- birds, flowers, trees, and clean lanes.
As some artists have died or moved away, there are now non-artists buying homes. One can only hope that artists will continue to be able to afford the homes as they come up for sale. We came to visit in response to their first “open studio” tour, so we were able to meet artists. Karen, my house mate, and I were taken with the work of Latha, a painter who grew up at Cholamandal, the daughter of a graphic artist, and is now is an artist in her own right.
Karen bought this lovely painting.