An Artist Who Carved a Niche for Himself

By Express News Service - KOCHI Published: 30th April 2014 09:47 AM
M V Devan’s demise is the fading out of an era of creativity that paved way for the entry of modernism in every sphere of the Malayalee cultural psyche, remember his colleagues and friends.
The 86-year-old artist’s life-long trademark was a multi-faceted ingenuity and an unbending conviction of the correctness and importance of their ideas, said artist B D Dathan.
“This made M V Devan a stalwart of his times, making memorable marks in history as a sculptor, painter, art critic and speaker,” said Dathan.
Ever since he got serious about art at the age of 10 through painting, the artist was unstoppable, recounts his colleagues. Though he applied for the painting course in the Chennai Government School of Arts and Crafts after the entrance test, he was given admission because of his published works in Malayalam weeklies.
After his return from Madras, being trained under luminaries like Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury and K C S Paniker, Devan chose to break away from the clutches of rustic academic realism that was practised as art in Kerala those times. His works infused a visual sensibility and value system to the art scene in Kerala that was unmistakably modern.
“The print media was much strong then, without the distractions of visual media. Devan made meaningful illustrations an integral part of the content. One can point out many such illustrations made by Devan which made a long- lasting impact on the reader’s mind- like the drawing of girl child reading a book that he did for Mathrubhumi’s children’s magazine and which continued to run for so many years even after his retirement,” said reputed abstractionist Achuthan Kudallur.
But unlike other artists Devan was not just an illustrator for Keralites. While he was busy making illustration for one of the short stories of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer on the pages of Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly, those were revered by the readers as much as the Basheerian stories, he would also be writing or speaking simultaneously on the entry of modernity in Malayalam literature.
“Apart from being an artist himself, he doubled up as a literary and art critic, orator and sculptor every now and then. And while donning each one of these roles, he never compromised on his intellectual quality; the introduction he wrote for one of poet Ayyappa Paniker’s book is still a much discussed one,” said B D Dathan.
There are numerous experiences that friends recollect when asked about a trait that was well-known for Devan.
“He was outspoken. I remember how he attacked hard academy authorities once they decided to collect rent from artists after renovation of the Art Gallery at Thiruvananthapuram. But his war with words were always based on ideas, not personal,” Dathan said.
Devan also won prestigious recognitions for almost all fields where he laid his hands.
He was awarded the Vayalar award for his collection of critical essays-also considered to be his magnum opus-Devaspandanam. Apart from this, he had won Kerala government’s prestigious Ravi Varma Puraskar, Kerala Sahitiya Akademi award, V P Menon award and Malayatoor award for sculpture.
He was also instrumental in developing various art institutions, including Chennai Cholamandalam, Kerala Kalapeedam at Kochi and Mahi Kalagramam.
M V Devan was the founder member and had been the chairman of Kerala Kalapeedam. He had also served as the chairman of Kerala Lalitakala Akademi, Secretary of Madras state Lalitakala Akademi, Art consultant of FEDO, a unit of the Fertilisers and chemicals Travancore (FACT) here, and had a long-time association with Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.
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