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| Last Updated:21/01/2014

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Visual taste for waste

OLYMPIA SHILPA GERALD, The Hindu, 21 January 2014


on display:Artist Kumar working on his paintings on the Beach Road, in Puducherry.Photo: S.S. Kumar

PUDCUHERRY: When he spotted the burnt out tube lights dumped at the street corner , all that N. Kumar could see was how Abdul Kalam’s image would look painted on them.

A tar pit filled with blackened pebbles brought the image of his screen idol Rajinikanth to his mind. Erstwhile banner artist N. Kumar sees portraits and pictures in anything that has been dumped or discarded.

Over the last few days, Kumar has been able to draw crowds to his portraits on Beach Road, that have a three dimensional feel to them.


“For thirty five years I have been doing banners and cut-outs,” says Kumar, who mixes oils and paints to make larger than life banners for politicians and silver screen idols. “The last 12 years has been the most trying time of my life,” he says.


“I even tried my hand at banners but now they are banned. I wanted to do something that could win public attention,” says the artist who has self-funded all his projects. He hopes to convey that banner artists can get a new lease of life by experimenting with mediums.


Every work has a story behind it. The portrait of a baby painted on sacks stitched together is filled with weeds. “Rice and sand are too heavy and expensive. My sons and I gathered the weeds that were found in the railway tracks. .” One that stands out is the 3D image of the superstar in the film Enthiran. “We were looking for clean, new plastic bottles and approached wedding halls when he had to get this image ready for his birthday.,” recounts Kumar,


“In fact we were told that we would get the water bottles only after guests finish their food.” Kumar and his father sat up from 4 a.m. to collect the water bottles.


Unique paintings


Rajinkanth and MGR are his idols as he started out with their movies. Kumar completed a 52 x 16 feet image of MGR in 23 hours on the beach. “ Thalapathy was the first movie for which I made a 30 feet huge cut out,” says Kumar. He thinks meeting the superstar was one his prized moments in life. Kumar’s painting still remains in the superstar’s possessions, says his friend Murugan.


“The portrait appeared in the movie Anbulla Rajinikanth,”. But the painting that has been noticed the least of the lot happens to be the one that involved the most effort, he says, pointing to a colour portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. Even as one wonders what is unique about it, he says it was painted with one finger. “I plant to attempt a record for the largest painting done with one finger.”