Artists village Cholamandal provides solace for creative souls

Chennai: The Cholamandal Artists’ Village at Injambakkam is truly a unique space.

Spread over 10 acres, it houses art galleries, an open-air international sculpture park, artists’ studio, cultural centres and cottages, all of which present an alternative world for creative souls.

Secretary of Cholamandal Centre for Contemporary Art, P Gopinath, speaks to ‘News Today’, about how residents came to love the place and why they remain the biggest critics of their work.

“We started this centre about 51 years ago. At that time, there was nothing here- no roads or electricity. But we chose this place because there was no art gallery in the city, and we wanted a quiet place to stay and work at minimum costs. Since the land rates were cheap, we purchased half an acre, with one costing Rs 4,500. Then, a couple of cottages were set up and the first batch of us moved in. As there was no water available, we dug a bore well too,” he said. The well, according to him, became the connecting point with villagers.

“The locals started coming here in the morning to take water. We too were cordial and received a lot of feedback from them. We found how they reacted to our coming and settling here. Even now, they frequently visit our studio, see our paintings and sculptures. They are the best critics. They ask us the whys and whats of each of our work. They have seen only film posters, that is the only art they understand. Over time, some of their children too got interested in this field,” he stated.

Art is a different language which cannot be taught in an institute or college. We can teach how to use material, but can’t tell what to do, he pointed out, adding that the first artist village was in the seventh century in Mahabalipuram where sculptors lived and worked.

Cut to now, the village has 20 resident painters and sculptors, who run the Artists Handicrafts Association, a cooperative which manages the village and sale of works through the permanent exhibition at the complex.

Naomi N