Seven stay-at-home mothers took to the brush to add a dash of colour to their mundane existence and rediscover themselves. Alvin Thomas gets a peek into the art of their new living.
World-renowned art historian and author Elizabeth Broun once stated: “Art is not always about pretty things. It’s about who we are, what happened to us, and how our lives are affected.”
Roughly translated, she defines art as a medium that transcends the limits and touches a newer and deeper level that was once considered implausible by us humans.
But little did she know that what she said is now setting a consuming passion among budding artists who are finding a “new life with art”.
This isn’t the story of a group of artists but rather the tale of seven stay-at-home-mothers who have completely submitted to art and rediscovered themselves – even as they go about their daily chores.
Tagging along their spiritual journey is Suji Narikal Velayuthan – a veteran artist and teacher – who has been teaching and inspiring several students through his art classes at the fine-arts institute, Kalamandalam.
“I have been in Oman for the last nine years, residing with my family. The reason I started art is because I believe that for the last 20 years, I haven’t done anything productive for myself.
“I have been a stay-at-home mother looking after my kids ever since I came here.
“But to break the routine, I had just tried painting at home. And that’s when I felt like it was something that could completely change me. It was a new feeling, and one that I knew I liked.
“I started with sketching but then moved onto pastel. The art that I am showcasing today is a horse; it’s an expression of strength. If you see, the horse is galloping and that shows inner power, and a sense of freedom that exists in the form of art.”
“I’ve been residing in Oman for the last 13 years but it has only been a year since I joined the art classes. Prior to that, I was a nursery school teacher but gave it up to become a stay-at-home mother.
“This passion for art started off when I came to see a display that was put up at Kalamandalam. I felt that I had a calling. I just wanted to do something of my own and perhaps start by replicating some of the works that were exhibited.
“So I asked Suji sir if I would be able to do that. And to my surprise he said: ‘You can surely do it’.
“I’ve never drawn, let alone painted, in my life. If you ask me if I have indulged in any form of art, I can say that I was a dancer.
“The outcome was fabulous. Even I cannot believe that I was able to do something of that level. And just as I enter my first year, I can already tell you that I am completely invested in art.
“The work I have showcased is a mural painting. The reason I did that is because of the encouragement I received from Sir, as well as the will-power I had to succeed as an artist.
“Mural painting is known to be on the harder side. And by accomplishing this, I feel like I have grown as an artist. Now, I must work hard to learn more and perfect on more murals.”
“Art has given me the motivation to do something different; something I never thought I would ever do.
“Yes, in my mind, I had always wanted to do some mural paintings but never had the courage to do so. But, as I enrolled myself in Suji sir’s class, I learnt that art isn’t just about talent but also about finding the right state of mind to be creative.
“I found that by being told that I can succeed, I could be very inspired.
“I’m currently showcasing a ‘Raja Ravi Varma’ painting of the ‘Maharashtrian lady’, which is one of the celebrated artist’s strong works.
I feel his painting shows the emotions that are portrayed by the subject, and that’s what motivated me to take it up.”
“I’ve been painting for two years – so I would consider myself a senior (she laughs). But my story began when I started bringing my daughter to class here.
“That’s when I started seeing the many works that were showcased here, and in a way it inspired me to join.
“After I did enter the classes, there was no looking back.
“Painting is something that I always wanted to do, but I could never find the time for it; I have two daughters to look after. But when I started, I found myself making time to come here.
“Apart from being an artist, that’s another thing I learnt: I now know that I can find time for myself – and do something that inspires me and also the people around me.
“As you can see, I have exhibited a pencil sketching of Cleopatra. But the face is an interpretation rather than a definitive sketch. Cleopatra was one of the strongest women of her time, and that’s probably something that I wanted to portray and capture through the tip of my pencil.”
“It has been only a year-and-a-half since I’ve come to Oman, which makes me the youngest of the group (laughs). It’s been eight to nine months since I joined.
“I actually read about art in Oman through one of the stories in Y Magazine. Of course, it was a passion in me since childhood – even though it never actually materialised.
“When I came here, I had a lot of time, though. I was a counsellor by profession and in Mumbai (a city in India) you are really very busy.
“I found that art is the best stress-buster for anybody. When people vent out their problems to you, it also – on some level – adds to your stress. And art has helped me to overcome a lot of this on a personal and professional level. I don’t practise in Oman, though.
“I started from scratch where I learned to draw a graph, shade, use pastels and even acrylic. It’s been a wonderful journey and it has helped me grow as a person.
I think as a guru, I think Suji is the best person who can help you overcome your fears and bring out the real you.
“For this display, I am showcasing scenery and a horse.”
“I started one year ago, but I’ve been drawing ever since I was a child. Back then, I sketched rivers, human faces, animals, etc.
“Drawing – as I found at a very young age – was the only way to express my creativity. That’s also why I joined here.
“Another part that I try is to portray animals; I love them. Some people even call me an animal lover.
“I have some pet dogs back home in India. And by drawing them, I intend to show the people the life form that they are.”
“I’ve been in Oman for about 10-and-a-half years now. I was working in the human resources department of a company but left it after I came to Oman.
“My first encounter with art in Oman was when I went for one of Suji’s exhibitions. I was very fascinated by it and what hit me was that everyone – both young and old – were artists portraying their drawings and paintings at the same level.
“And the reason for that has to be Suji. He is an artist that comes and tends to everyone’s works and that gives you a little more confidence.
“I used to paint as a child, but back then I would only do scenery and animals.
“Now, though, I have expanded my range of works. And as you can see, I have displayed a picture of Ganesha and a floral painting.
“I just want to move onto a professional platform if I can, and I would like my children to follow me. My son is also a student of Suji, and my daughter will also join soon.
“I want my children to become better artists than me, and I just want to show them the way.”