It’s a Sunday morning. When most people would have switched off their alarm clocks for a sleep-in and a lazy day, Muralidharan Alagar, a software architect by profession, is getting ready with his quiver full of paint brushes, charcoal pencils and a canvas on which he is going to paint. By the time the clock strikes 9 am, Muralidharan and some 30-odd artists and painting enthusiasts will gather at a place, exchange a few informal introductions, jokes and light-hearted conversation, and before one can sense the purpose of this gathering, they will have settled down with their paint brushes and paper to paint whatever they find interesting in their surroundings. They are not commercial artists. They are neither conveying a message nor participating in a competition. What brings them together is a passion to create art, learn, appreciate and exchange ideas. They call themselves the Chennai Weekend Artists (CWA)
The CWA is a group of artists and art enthusiasts who sketch and paint on location in and around Chennai during weekends. CWA meets every Sunday at a location of interest, and comprises of people from all walks of life. When Muralidharan started the CWA a couple of years back, he had five like-minded people who would meet regularly, and within a year, this small group increased to a group of 40, and now has around 450 members painting, sketching and sharing their art work both on the ground as well as online. “It is a great feeling to be a creator,” says Muralidharan. “Initially, it was an escape for me from the monotonous and stagnant life of working and making money. I was weary of the software industry. But to create a new work of art keeps me fresh and I am never tired even if I paint for the entire day. Every day there is something new, something exciting and everything I see has something unique in it. One gets a completely new perspective on beauty and aesthetics when one is expressing one’s feelings freely.” he says. For Muralidharan, it is not just the art that inspires him, but also the very act of sharing and communicating that keeps his spirits alive.
A native of Madurai, Muralidharan came to Chennai two years ago from Bengaluru to develop his hobbies, painting and photography. “Chennai is a cultural hub and I was surprised to find that there were no groups like ours. So, with some help from the Pencil Jammers in Bengaluru, I started the Chennai Weekend Artists. The aim was to find like-minded people and share, learn and appreciate art,” he says. CWA are active on Facebook and on the Pencil Jammers’ website through which they communicate and share their art. “I don’t own anything here,” says Muralidharan. “Every Monday, I decide upon a place where we can jam and ask for everybody’s opinion. When once the place is decided we meet there at 9 am on the Sunday, paint, sketch or practise art on any medium. Any place is worth a shot for us. It might be a mall, a park or anywhere; we have things to paint and things that interest us. We have had a session on the local train, travelling from Taramani to Egmore, in Central, Vandaloor zoo and many other places. When we are through, around 12 noon, we gather for a discussion and share our art, the technique, the subject, the medium, learn to appreciate art and learn how certain effects are achieved. For most of us, this is the most interesting and valuable thing to do.” he adds.
Muralidharan says that this experience of sharing has enabled the group to develop a certain respect for other people’s creativity. “Everybody is born an artist,” he says. “When you express something without inhibition, you create something that is unique in itself. When we draw or paint we feel free and this is something that we want to develop in all our members. Actually, the way in which CWA is structured reflects in our art. There is no membership fee, there is no compulsion on anything and members are allowed to do what they like, like giving more scope for cross-cultural exchanges. Another unique thing about CWA is that we are not here to teach art, unlike other groups and clubs. CWA is dedicated to motivate people to come up with their own style and to empower them. Our discussions help us see beauty and harmony in everything, and as we have seen over the last two years, we need not teach this to anyone,” he says.
The CWA are active on Facebook throughout the week. “On weekdays, though, we are busy with our own work and family, but we keep in touch with our art and with each other. We post photos on Facebook and try to paint them.”
Muralidharan, along with friends, Karthik and Ashok, have started a new group, Kids and Wings, where we try to make kids appreciate art and develop their creativity. “We go to Corporation schools and help the kids bring their talent out. We teach them to appreciate each other’s art and cultivate the idea of sharing,” he says.
On December 13, students of the Department of Visual Communication, Ethiraj College and Department of Media Science, Anna University have given CWA a chance to exhibit their works, themed on the birth of cinema, particularly south Indian cinema. “The theme is a challenging one and we are all looking forward to it,” says the artist.
For more information you can log onto CWA’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/ChennaiWeekendArtists or on penciljammers.com/group/chennai-weekend-artists.