Art adorns not just the walls, but also the doors and floors of P. Manickavachagam’s home-cum-studio in the suburb of Kattur.
A former Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the Department of Architecture in NIT-T, he keeps himself busy during retirement with multiple assignments.
Topping the list is a series of cityscapes featuring marketplaces and landmark buildings of Tiruchi that Mr. Manickavachagam hopes to publish as a book one day. “In my sketches, I make pen and ink outlines and fill them in with watercolours, for a touch of realism,” the 70-year-old told The Hindu.
Featuring iconic spaces in the city such as Big Bazaar Street, Rockfort, Gandhi Market and Tiruchi railway junction, the finely detailed drawings are available on the artist’s Instagram handle. “I rely on photographs to make these cityscapes, and they seem to have a nostalgic appeal for those who visit my Instagram page,” he said. “It is also possible to see how Tiruchi has grown and changed gradually down the years through these paintings.”
Originally from Poolavadi village in Tiruppur district, he has spent the lockdown engaged in a philanthropic project for his birthplace. He has been doing the illustrations for a Tamil book being written by his friend Salai Kumaran to raise funds for their alma mater in Poolavadi, the Government Higher Secondary School.
“My friend has written about significant events and people from our early years in Poolavadi. I have tried to recreate some of these scenes to accompany the text,” said Mr. Manickvachagam, who has done nearly a hundred illustrations pertaining to the sandhai (weekly shandy), ‘record dance’ performers, ‘goli soda’ makers and cattle sellers, among others, for the book. There are pictures of festivals and famous sons of the soil such as poet-lyricist Udumalai Narayana Kavi.
“Many of the professions that the pictures portray have slowly vanished, so this book, which we hope to publish in time for the school’s 60th anniversary celebrations next year, will be like an archival document too,” said Mr. Manickavachagam.
After being trained by his goldsmith father and later by the sthapathi (temple architect and sculptor) Rajagopal, a 1950s alumnus of the Kumbakonam School of Fine Art, he worked as telephone operator and veered towards commercial graphics and book wrapper designing before finding his forte as a Fine Arts academic. He has kept up with the times by teaching art online.
“Every day is a new and surprising experience for the artist,” he said.
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