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The Christmas mural at Amber Valley Residential School.

School children planning and painting the Christmas mural.

Srivi Kalyan painting the kalamkari-inspired Tree of Life mural.

From sea to sky, the Tree of Life has a strong connection to nature.

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Showcase 30 Sep 2013

Srivi Kalyan’s brush strokes

Organic and fluid, Srivi Kalyan’s diverse canvases are filled with vibrant colours and hues. Her work reflects her constant state of creating and expressing which continually fascinates and inspires.

The joy of looking through a kaleidoscope is not diminished by an understanding of its working. It holds the power to yield a childlike sense of magic and wonder. I felt a similar delight and admiration when first introduced to Srivi Kalyan and her work which is at the exciting intersection of art, media, education, design, and self-reflection. At every turn something new and meaningful emerges. She is the Founder-Director of Fooniferse Arts Pvt. Ltd., a platform for alternative arts and education, and a creative space that challenges, celebrates, and questions everyday life through art and media products, workshops, and creative programs. 

Along with her interaction with family and the world, the different elements of Srivi’s life come together to inspire countless kaleidoscopic creations that continuously morph and evolve. Right from her childhood, Srivi enjoyed the act of drawing on walls with no paper to restrict her—she enjoyed working on large spaces where her lines could flow.  “My forms and ideas always spilled onto the floor or the desk. I like drawing in the wind, in the water, in the sand…the larger the canvas the better. I like the freedom of space.” Srivi started creating non-commissioned work when she was still in school. She loved using discarded materials, clay, old watches, and clocks to construct installations. Srivi fondly remembers, “One evening when I went crazy at home, I painted all the walls. I started out with the intention of doing one veena on one wall, but as usual, the ideas exploded, the forms came in vibrant and dancing and I just let it flow. We had those painted walls for almost four years at home. My parents have been wonderful in putting up with my exuberant artistic spirit right from my childhood, both nurturing and protecting it.”

The Christmas mural at Amber Valley Residential School.

School children planning and painting the Christmas mural.

One of her bigger projects was for the children’s ward of Sankara Nethralaya’s hospital, where she used 360 hand painted woodcut pieces to make the space lively, keep the children engaged, and bring down the anxiety they face while meeting specialists and doctors. “I worked with a small team building the basic idea of four children having fun in five different landscapes that are defined in Sangam literature. Since there was always the possibility of moving the ward to another location, instead of murals, we decided on using woodcuts that could be transported anytime.”

“One of the most heartening murals I worked on was as a teacher at Amber Valley Residential School. We were a close team of 102 children, 25 teachers, and other staff. All the 102 children painted along with me to create a mural for Christmas in 2004. We planned the idea together, and it was like wonderland, with all those little hands, trying to find their own space on the wall, delighted and excited about what we were creating together.” Srivi Kalyan doesn’t conform to rigid processes and is open to different approaches to her work. While Sankara Nethralaya was strongly rooted in planning, conceptualising, and executing, the Amber Valley mural was completely improvised. 

Her latest work at Jaya Madhavan and Madhavan Gopalarathnam’s residence was all about trusting her instincts and conceptualising the artwork directly on the wall. “It is a completely free-flowing process, where I surrendered to that sense of prayer I wanted to create and then let it all come together. This is the method I prefer most. In this, I find that instead of restricted ownership of what I am creating, I become aware of the interaction of many energies that make a creative vision possible.” The mural is based on a kalamkari-inspired Tree of Life around which she has woven an entire web of life—from insects to tigers.

Srivi Kalyan painting the kalamkari-inspired Tree of Life mural.

From sea to sky, the Tree of Life has a strong connection to nature.

The painting for Srivi grew from her conversations with the residents, the rhythms of their lives, the silences and flow of energies, their hopes and dreams, after which she decided to impart the living space with a sense of richness, warmth, diversity, and a touch of magic. Srivi and her works are strongly connected to nature and that is how she relates with the world. Being an educator, her passion and path in life is to work with children and nature. She was working on an environment project for children at the same time she was creating the kalamkari mural and she said, “It seems to me that the Tree of Life project has led me back to myself, to the core of who I have always been and it has given me greater courage, deeper vision, and drawn me closer to people who share this gratitude and love  for nature.”

For Srivi the act of engaging in any creative process is a very important transformative undertaking. She prefers to work for clients who are open minded and don’t come with fixed, concrete ideas of what they want, limiting her creative capacity.

“The creative process is like a ritual. It involves meditation, reflection, surrender. It means letting go of oneself and connecting with a greater river of creative force that is intertwined with all life. This is one of the reasons I don’t take on mural projects easily. To me a home or any interior with its people, dreams, hopes are all sacred spaces. What I create for such spaces, I believe must come from vision and meditation, not intellect and technique.”

Srivi Kalyan has a Masters in Arts in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge and a Masters in Fine Arts from Stella Maris College, Chennai. She has authored and illustrated award-winning children’s books and stories for adults and writes on art and art education for numerous publications. To view more projects, visit www.sriviliveshere.com

 

 

 

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• All images courtesy Srivi Kalyan