Artists Yusuf Madhiya, Balachander M bring Chennai's heritage monuments under one roof

Their tempera and watercolour works are on display at Kadambari Gallery, DakshinaChitra Heritage Museum

author_img Nikhil Jayakrishnan Published :  16th August 2022 08:01 PM   |   Published :   |  16th August 2022 08:01 PM
Artists Yusuf Madhiya, Balachander M's paintings

Artists Yusuf Madhiya, Balachander M's paintings

Imagine having all of Chennai’s heritage monuments placed side-by-side in a single hall — that is exactly what Yusuf Madhiya and Balachander M have accomplished with their exhibition of tempera and watercolour works, respectively, at Kadambari Gallery, DakshinaChitra Heritage Museum.

“This exhibition is a display of my passion for Chennai and its heritage. There is so much to explore and learn in this city, so many hidden treasures we hardly take note of,” says Yusuf, an entrepreneur in the fabric industry, who refers to the city as his adopted home.

Balachander, on the other hand, describes himself as “core Chennai”, in the sense that his roots in the city go far back as 200-250 years. It was, therefore, no surprise that he would want to let people coming to the city know what makes Chennai, Chennai.

Meeting of like minds

Yusuf met Balachander through Chennai Weekend Artists’ Group, which would meet every Sunday to go on painting expeditions. Yusuf originally was a wildlife artist while Balachander was into watercolour renderings of heritage buildings. Their conversations gave birth to the idea of a project documenting Chennai’s many historic landmarks. 

“We would go to different landmarks in Chennai and paint from the site,” says Yusuf, whose works include a depiction of the Parsi Fire Temple in Royapuram, which he admits he discovered only recently, despite being from the area. Weighing in on the process, Balachander, who balances his art with his job as a UX designer, says, “Some of the paintings were done on location, Loyola college being one of them, as well as Santhome’s. I would go out with my watercolour pad, colours and palette, and get it done in a couple of hours. Other times, I would work from home — complete the basic sketch at night, and work on the painting early in the morning.” 

Besides the array of temples, churches and mosques, one can find other historical landmarks like the Chepauk Palace, Amir Mahal, Higginbothams, CSI School for the Deaf etc.. Each painting has a QR code that directs the viewer to the location on Google maps, in case one is piqued enough to pay a visit.

From book to gallery

The paintings on display were originally published in a book titled Guide to Chennai Heritage. “You can explore Chennai for a year with this,” Yusuf says. The book came out in 2019 and generated a lot of enthusiasm from people outside of Chennai who were curious about the city. An exhibition of the original works was originally planned for 2020, but the pandemic stalled it. 

Besides the book, the paintings were also issued as postcards. “The practice of sending postcards is on the wane, so we made it a point to distribute them to various associations. Even when I dispatch fabric to cities outside Chennai, I make sure to include at least ten postcards along with the consignment.

This way, I keep alive the practice of sending postcards while also letting people know of our city’s beautiful heritage sites,” says Yusuf. The paintings on display are for sale, and so are the postcards and the book. The exhibition is on until August 30.

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