Drawing inspiration from the vibrant hues of Hindu mythology and folklore, Smitha Menon aka Tina has rendered inexplicable beauty through her paintings. She has recreated the characters from mythological stories that have become a part of the lives of many. These stories that we happily heard from our grandmothers not only left us fascinated but also provided us with great examples of moral science.
Tina, who is also greatly inspired by these stories and folklore, has given life to her perception of characters through an exhibition ‘Upakatha’, which according to her means, short story or part of a larger narrative.
“The exhibition is a collection of paintings of characters and stories from Indian mythology and folklore. I read books mostly based on Indian mythology and sometimes while I’m reading, certain situations and characters get carved into my brain and I have to paint them the way I envision them. This is my version,” says Tina.
Explaining how Upakatha happened in less than a month, she says that after her first exhibition, she realized that there was a market for what she loved and that could afford her a decent living.
“I kept painting what I loved, and there was always someone ready to buy it. And this happened for a long time. Then a friend of mine told me that someday I might want to do an exhibition and if I keep selling off my paintings that would never be a possibility. So I stopped selling. Not for the purpose of exhibiting, but to have a whole bunch of paintings for the buyer to choose from,” she says.
It was her father and friend Praveen who persuaded her into doing an exhibition. Knowing that she would procrastinate because organising an exhibition would mean she would have to be in the public eye, John, her husband, and her family took control and so Upakatha happened. She says it was not planned or organised and that it all just happened.
This time she has come up with a different idea and has showcased paintings of the lesser known stories from our epics as compared to her previous exhibitions, which featured popular figures in Indian mythology. Also, the subject of most of her paintings revolves around women or Shakthi – as a mother, a daughter, a wife, an enchantress, a devotee, as Prakriti, and so on.
Sharing her passion and love for painting, Tina says that though she had to put her dream to paint on the backburner in order to pursue what life had planned for her, the urge to come back to what she really wanted was inevitable. After graduating with a degree in fashion design from Pearl Academy, she went on to earn a second degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Houston in Texas, USA. After that, she stayed on to work with advertising and design agencies in the US, until she moved back to the UAE to start and head a branch of Pearl Academy there.
“The more I taught, mentored, and guided students, their passion and creativity, the more there was an ache to pursue what I loved. Five years into running the academy, I decided it was time and passed the reins on to someone else in order to take up painting full time. My family encouraged all forms of art. They made me learn Bharatanatyam and take Carnatic vocal training from the age of 4. They encouraged me to paint. But pursuing art as a profession was out of the question. A question I didn’t have the courage to ask them till I was 32,” she added.
Tina has not studied art and is of the opinion that she is concerned about her paintings and not about the category in which they fall. She says that people who see her paintings call it contemporary art and that is why even she calls it the same. However, she believes that her paintings are a new take on something old.
Responding to whether she would like to learn more about painting and contemporary art she says, “I have no clue about both. I paint, that’s all. I don’t belong to any academy. I learned to paint by trial and error. Do I know if I’m using the right techniques or the right brush? No. I can study it from a teacher or online. But I choose not to because as long as I’m able to do justice to the image in my head on canvas, I’m good.”
Tina is extremely in love with what she is doing and along with the support of her family, she is living her dream. It is solely this dedication that produces wonderful results. This could be the reason why she has a strong customer base. People who admire her work, buy it for the love of good paintings. One of her paintings have also been bought by the ex-Consul General Sanjay Varma for the Indian consulate in Dubai and it hangs there till date.
The exhibition that will commence on October 20, 2016, at The Gallery of Contemporary Arts, Kerala, Museum of Arts and History, will go on till October 26.