Chennai-based Sonali Manavalan creates surreal tropical-themed canvases and digital prints on textiles
A large tiger stares balefully out of a colourful surreal foliage. Soon we understand that Sonali Manavalan has a thing for cats when we spot a jaguar peeping out of another canvas! “In fact, my first commissioned artwork was a 5 ft x 3 ft canvas that had a tiger. My friend had just then visited Ranthambore and spotted the big cats — and then she happened to chance upon one of my artworks that had a cat, which prompted her to place an order with me,” says Sonali, who recently put up a bunch of her canvases for a charity auction, where she raised about Rs 65,000 that went towards COVID-19 relief. It all began in the beginning of lockdown last year when she decorated her little toddler’s room with canvases and posted the pictures on social media. A jaguar was her biggest commissioned work at 6 ft x 3 ft. “I like working with acrylics on canvas. Oils take more of your time. I occasionally include gouache (poster paints) too.”
However, what also caught our attention a month ago was a nifty little video posted and created by her husband, actor Ashwin Kakumanu, announcing her venture Manavalan & Co, featuring some delicate digital prints. “Prints are my first love,” admits the Stella Maris College Alumnus, who had studied textile as part of her post graduate course at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. She further adds, “Ashwin is a very creative person himself. His sense of visuals, to me, is extraordinary. He directed a short film in 2019 and when I saw him shaping it and bringing it to life, I was absolutely amazed. From time to time, I send him what I think is a finished piece of work, to get any feedback, and usually get some of his opinions and thoughts. I think I’ll give myself a gold medal if the day ever comes when he says ‘No changes required, it looks perfect’!”
The managing partner and design head of the company, tells us that she always wanted to start out on her own and that in terms of brand names, she was drawn to names that reflected the identity and history of a person or family. “It’s very personal to me in that it represents my family (not just my immediate family) who have nurtured me.” Her passion for prints has in the past led her to brands that gave her a platform for her creativity. From designing prints for bags to wallpaper, Sonali has dabbled with many mediums to showcase her graphic artistry. Today, her designs are found on lehengas and other textiles too. “As my brand grows in the art sector — I want to focus on furnishing and textiles for home décor,” concludes the designer.
Price on request for canvases. Digital prints at Rs 1,800 onwards.