Kochi: With the stage set for Kochi-Muziris Biennale to begin on Wednesday, a cartoonist-illustrator has been systematically adding to the bustle around the fourth edition of the subcontinent’s biggest contemporary art festival.
For the past three months, Pune-basedengineer Sunil Nambu has been coming out with caricatures that narrate witty tales around the art world and society in general. All of them are being put upon social media by the Kochi Biennale Foundation that is hosting the 108-day event. Shared by several friends and followers on Facebook, twitter and WhatsApp, the images have been gaining popularity across the country as well as abroad.
Malayali and middle-aged Nambu doesn’t follow a particular line of thought or set of characters in his 100-image series that was conceived to be released in as many days till the Biennale starts on December 12. His works deal with celebrated stories around iconic yesteryear artists of global repute to scenes from everyday life of the common people in contemporary India.
With only a couple of days left for the Biennale to open, Nambu’s followers are curious on how the caricature series is set to end.
It all started with a playful drawing wherean artist’s work pops out of the canvas and imprints itself as 97 on hisT-shirt. “I do not have a story-board. That’s why the cartoons (in the pre-Biennale series) have changed narrative,” says the self-taught artist from Palakkad district in central Kerala.
Initially, the art series was planned withelements from art history — and that is how Western masters such as Vincent vanGogh and Pablo Picasso made their presence initially. Then, as the Biennalecame closer, the series moved towards contemporary artists such as Anish Kapoor. “I shifted path when I felt I was getting repetitive. And introduced acrow as a character,” he says, thanking Foundation president Bose Krishnamachari for suggesting timely tips.
So, why the crow? The bird’s unpredictable nature keeps the viewer curious on what is going to happen, according to Nambu. One cartoon has the crow checking the caricaturist’s work and in another the bird steals the brush from his hand.
Now, as the Biennale is nearing inauguration, the scenes in the series are moving to Kochi with greater frequency. One cartoon shows the Biennale city’s scape from the crow’s viewpoint, while the other shows the excitement around Fort Kochi ahead of the festival. In between, the series also strayed on portraying the August floods that ravaged Kerala and water entering every possible space in Kochi.
Nambu had drawn and sketched a lot during his formative years in riverine Edathara village, 25 km east of Ottapalam. He seldom participated in cartoon events or competitions, but his works began to get published in newspapers by the early 1990s.
Yet, art never came as a full-time job for Nambu. As a youngster, he moved to Mumbai, and entered the corporate world. “I did not draw for 15 years,” he recalls. “I continued my self-study in art and also visited galleries whenever I got a chance.”
Much later, in 2014, ahead of the general elections in the country, Nambu dabbled in political satire. The cartoons earned popularity and gave him a boost. Currently, Nambu’s works are being published in leading Malayalam dailies. He wishes to publish graphic novels soon.