Visual artist Viswanath Kuttum has been interpreting life on the island in his work. Distinct characteristics of the people and the landscape have emerged in his paintings. Viswanath Kuttum’s art is minimalistic and monochromatic.

One often tends to wonder about the role of rituals in urban contemporary living, especially since festivals in the subcontinent revolve around the worship of nature. And with increasing urbanisation, we seem to be slowly moving away from cyclical celebrations around sowing and harvest, and more. However, for visual artist Viswanath Kuttum, this longing for ritualistic practices has become the centre of his art.

He is a recent awardee of The Elizabeth Greenshields grant, which only a handful of Indian practitioners have received since its inception in 1955. For Kuttam drawing was more of a play during childhood spent in Port Blair. But when he received an award during grade 8 for his work themed on the Kargil war, he was encouraged to pursue this more seriously. Hailing from the Andaman islands, his family had limited resources to support his education. Failing the tenth-grade exams did not exactly further his cause. However, by then, his passion for art knew no bounds. Though rusticated from the school, he signed up for inter-school competitions using names of his friends. He even won several awards in disguise.

He pushed himself to complete his secondary education only because he learnt that a bachelor’s degree in fine arts was an option. “I wanted to pursue art and I was assured that I will not need to study any other subject besides that,” he confesses.

VR Niti Sejpal