Old world, New Palette

Old world, New Palette

The forms belong to an era long gone by last seen in the biblical and renaissance art, but on closer look, one sees the individual forms of people,...

The forms belong to an era long gone by; last seen in the biblical and renaissance art, but on closer look, one sees the individual forms of people, things, filling the canvas in multitudes, each disjointed and alone filling the space to make it a seamless whole of collective misery.

Paintings of self-taught Mumbai-based artist Milburn Cherian are vibrant in their sadness with the images aloof yet interactive making for an arresting canvas. The paintings that seem seeped in renaissance reflect today’s lives always in a crowd yet lonely and caught up in individual misery amidst chaos.

“It is only getting worse. This generation that I thought will become better is instead becoming worse. I am very bad with words hence I paint,” shares Cherian, who says it was not easy for her to have come where she is as an artist.

“Other than painting I did not know anything else. Earlier I used to paint nature and surreal themes, and some real, but I wanted to do something different. Then I began reading a lot on art and I was following various artists until I developed my own style.”

She was gifted a book by her sister on the works of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, an innovative Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker, known for his sweeping landscapes and peasant scenes, years ago. “I studied the books on Peasant Brueghel and then bought more books, researched his works in detail and then began my work… I studied how he created his crowd of characters and how he combined the Carnival and the season of Lent in one painting. Then I looked at the Proverbs in the Bible and began my work.”

Evidently, she chose to go back in time, at least 500 years, to gain inspiration, she explains, “I wanted to bring back the old-world style. I was not getting any better. It was difficult for me. I had to teach myself to draw people.

During this time Salvadore Dali was my hero. After I began painting, I was very scared of venturing into colour. But I always knew I did not want to do anything modern. The closest to modern art I ever got was when I was doing my clowns as a respite; when I wanted to take a break from my regular work.”

“My paintings are usually sad and reflect misery. I used to draw in black and white and they used to be very stark and depressing. And then, I began adding colour, and that brought in a whole lot of change to my work. The pain in my paintings is diluted a bit as they started looking brighter,” she relates. “Painting colours have lightened things even for me. I am happier,” she adds. Milburn Cherian has also done biblical paintings that have made her very popular.

The unusual journey of this artist explains the uniqueness of her style. “I do not plan what I will draw; not until I begin, and I also do not know how I will end my painting. I begin by drawing from the top, and when I finish, I begin to reflect on it.” One begins to wonder if the unrest she feels like a conscious citizen of the world and constant need to rediscover and evolve herself as an artist animates the forms in her paintings that may have come from the old world but speak the language of the present.

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