A Poignant record                                                                                              April 27, 2001

The Hindu Friday Review

     THE PAINTING exhibition put up at Ramanathan Chettiar hall at Thanjavur, from April 7 to April 9, was a unique one. It had only one painting but an important one. The 150 ft. long painting on the Gujarat earthquake, by artist K. Pugazhendhi, an innovative and socially responsible artist and lecturer, Kumbakonam Government fine arts college, was on display at the exhibition organised by the Thanjavur junior chamber. “This is not to exhibit my talent, but to record the human sufferings in the world’s worst ever disaster”Pugazhendhi said.

     When Gujarat was rocked by an earthquake on January 26, even as the country was celebrating its Republic day, earth tremors were felt at Thiruvaiyaru, Ayyampettai and Papanasam in Thanjavur district. People in these areas know what an earth tremor would be like. The exhibition, thus had more relevance for Thanjavur. The exhibition attracted hundreds of people, particularly youth and college and school students.

     Pugazhendhi has conceived the painting in four parts. First the destruction due to the earthquake, second the sufferings of people and ·’ other living things. Third the relief measurs that should follow the disaster and fourth the triumph of  human beings that shows they can overcome the disaster, which is represented by the growth of a sapling and cheer of a child at the end. The stranded people and cattle under the debris have been well depicted in the paintings. A clock that stopped at 8- 40 a.m. when the earthquake rocked Gujarat was also found in the painting indicating the time of disaster. The aim is to record the world’s worst disaster and to give the earnings collected by selling the painting as relief to earthquake victims .

     “Art is not for art’s sake. It is more. It should reflect realities. Human history. Gujarat earthquake is one such incident,” Pugazhendhi said.

     Poems by Kasi Anandan on the earthquake formed the footpote of the painting at the exhibition. Recording paintings of real happenings is not new for Pugazhendhi, a native of Thanjavur district. As the Gujarat devastation was heavy, he had decided to paint a picture commensurate with the intensity of the earthquake and enormous human and property losses, he said.

     The painting was first exhibited at Chennai and had a good response. Though no one had come forward to purchase the painting (the amount when sold would go for relief) Rs. 3,000, came as donation which was sent to the earthquake relief fund. The painting would be exhibited at Cuddalore next, Pugazhendhi said.