Her story  
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur
e-mail: padmajayaraj@gmail.com

December 4, 2008 
C N Karunakaran is the pride of Kerala. The artist has carved a niche in the art world for himself with his versatile oeuvre. Talent, genuine passion for his craft and a timeless wisdom emanate from his compositions. For the last four decades he is known as the weaver of womanscapes. His palate has been a cornucopia for inexhaustible mysteries of the female.  

CN 2008, a month-long exhibition of paintings by C N Karunakaran at Ishka Gallery, Kochi, showcased 41 paintings. You are introduced to the best of his collection commemorating 40 years of painting, of painting HER, poetic, surreal, and ethereal. They glowed in the diffused spread of faint sunshine. You amble along wondering about womanhood. The collection is a strange draw of womanhood in a mood of celebration, womanhood embedded in bounties of voluptuousness.  
Born of the psycho-sexual realm of an artist's imagination these women float languorously in primordial pleasure in the twilight land of desire and reality. Each picture tells the tale of a maverick genius who created them. They are the figments of his imagination with the quality of the surreal hovering around them evoking mystery. More than their sensuality, it is their power that haunts you. Juxtaposition of the incongruous, real, and fantastic creates a phantasmagoria, more powerful than pleasurable, yet quite lyrical in appeal. 
The artist is obsessed with a pattern; all figures are type-set. Yet they are multiple articulation of the female principle. 

"C N's pattern is a variation of the same permutation combination for which there are infinite possibilities," says Vijyakumar Menon, an art critic. 
A superb colourist  
He is one of the best colourists in India. Marvellous coloration marks him apart. Warm colours like red and yellow are made warmer. Green and blue have soothing effect. The riot of colours is another marked feature of his created world. Tertiary and quaternary colours light up not just the canvass but your mood as well. It adds to the aesthetic pleasure that wells up within the viewer.  
Indian to the core 
Born in Kerala, CN is an original home-grown artist, in thought and expression. He has evolved an idiom of his own: syntax both personal and collective; semantics, both traditional and modern. Indian to the core, rooted in mural traditions, his paintings are deep internalisation of Indian iconography. The unique posturing of his protagonists and their classical stance impart a dreamy quality. The stylized figures, plant motif for decoration have sprung form Kerala murals. The wavy flow of foliage gives touches of an undulating rhythm to his compositions. The linear quality is another Indian feature that we find in his art. The presence of birds and animals, natural and mythical endow an ethereal quality. And the background offsets the foreground. Narrative mode is another distinct feature: they tell their story and you read your story.  

Her Persona  
You walk into her world. One canvas is simply, SHE. SHE is painted in many colours as if the artist is yet to be satisfied viewing her in perfection. The entire gallery gives a kaleidoscopic view of HER bathed in warm hues. 
SHE is drawn in her many moods. You see her alone, and lonely. Another tells of her strange thoughts or maybe the thoughts of her creator, or perhaps that of you, the viewer. Yes, she is a dreamer, a seeker of love perhaps. She is cheerful in the company of man. She is a contented woman in COUPLE, beside her man. Another tells of her pangs in separation. She is happy bonding with other women. Her world is that of plants, animals and humans. She stands in front of her house; goes to the temple; meets her friend under a tree. She believes in man-woman relationship on the basis of equality, as a harmonious unified whole. Her inner core is a combination of the yin and the yang reminding of creation myth, ardhanariswara etc. She is a powerful matriarch in her kingdom. 
Here life is illumined; here love radiates from its many phases. Here is erotica; here is the life force; here, is the creative force, for the artist. Man seeks the female within; the artist the creative force within him. CN's paintings are the romantic expression of an artist who is a romantic in his approach to art.  
It is a world unknown and unseen. "I have tried to give a different dimension. I have made the flora and fauna more descriptive and have tried to bring in an element of the abstract," says CN. Some of the fauna - the deer, the big cats, the goats, and birds – are part animal and part human. Occasionally there is a lion with a bearded head. And the similarity with the artist is arresting. This is his timeless signature. And the mystery lurks in these combinations, in the complex nucleus of the artist’s mindscape.  
Galleries all over the world have displayed CN's solo exhibitions. He has won many national awards. He started Chitrakoodam, the first private art gallery in Kerala. He lives in Kochi as a stimulus to the pictorial world. 

Padma Jayaraj is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com