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Murali Cheeroth: deciphering developmental, environmental, cultural codes and clues
Through his works, sensitive artist Murali Cheeroth expresses his deep concern about physical and psychological aspects of violence that pervades contemporary reality. His paintings are noteworthy for their incredibly slick surfaces, vivid colors, focused attention and subtle, surreal composition.

His oeuvre is somewhat similar to that of Gerhard Richter, a famed artist who painted images without glory, coming up with images rendering the ridiculous, ordinary; the tragic and the beautiful, ordinary. Richter’s work formed from structures and ideas surrounding him, sans any profound touch to it. With his careful subversions of photo-realism, the artist looks to blur, highlight and amplify the trajectory and movement of his subjects.

Murali Cheeroth’s involvement with theatre coupled with continuing interest in cinema helps him in presenting his images through dramatic ambiance for an unusual perspective. Images he takes are from the industrial medium - of photography, of cinema, of the digital. Using these industrialized mediums as the basic iconography of his work, the artist then goes back and reframes and uses the processes of translation, transliteration, transmutation of the popular image. In his paintings, the figure - isolated and enigmatic - hides and holds a sense of mystery. Its profile is often intentionally blurred or partially hidden.

Born in a small village Kerala in 1966, Murali Cheeroth after acquiring Diploma in Painting from Govt. College of Art, Trissur in 1987, he left for Santiniketan to complete his B.F.A. and M.F.A. in Graphic Art MFA in 1992 and 1995 from Kalabhavan, respectively. His next destination was Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal where he stayed for a year before moving to Kanoria Centre for Arts, Ahmedabad first as a resident artist and later as a faculty. He taught at College of Architecture, Ahmedabad and National Institute of Design. He has had joint shows at Crimson Art Gallery, Bangalore (2007) and Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi (2003, 2007).

Among the award and scholarships won by him are Kanoria Scholarship for Print Making (1997); Junior Fellowship, research in fiber art, Department of Culture, Govt. of India (1997-99); Kerala State Lalit Kala Akademi award (1997-98); Cultural Scholarship awarded by Department of Culture (1993-95), and Merit scholarship. Kalabhavan, Santhiniketan. The artist has held many significant solo and two/three-person exhibits apart from participation in group shows in various cities of India and internationally - Bangkok, New York, Durban and Dubai.

Some of his recent works showcased in a solo ‘mise-en-scéne’ at New Delhi based Viart Gallery appear like vignettes of an erupting city. This informs us the ways in which urbanization has left its imprint on his mind. There is an inherent sense of suppressed violence in them. But the sociopolitical implications are carefully controlled and kept subdued. In an exhibit of modern figurative art held at Dubai’s 1x1 Art Gallery his works were showcased with many other Indian artists. Three of his huge oil paintings were on display.

Murali Cheeroth draws his inspiration from the built environment, rather than the luxurious flora and fauna he grew up with in his native land. His works are configured with codes and clues, which turn into cultural maps of his lived environment. The artist has stated: “My work largely deals with the urban life. There is no specific single theme. I tackle several related themes in my work - developmental, environmental and cultural. Such themes get juxtaposed and remain interrelated.”

His art is a mix of curious abstract and figurative forms, coupled with the biomorphic and the geometric. The style and color palette allude to the storybook illustrations, in accord with the reality — specifically with space and time. Elaborating on his painterly techniques, he says, “I use hybrid, technological colors to elaborate my themes.” They are not location-specific rather they universal in nature as he looks to bring out the changes in the urban landscape.

His works like in the series ‘Touch Retouch’ attempt to explore his engagement with his mental landscapes and the materials that he uses to translate and represent his own personal language. Curator and art scholar Dr. Alka Pande mentions of his work that it is not of abstract; rather it comes out from the real tactile world that he inhabits.

She states: “Based on the everyday popular culture of the built environment, his anxieties, engagements, trials, tribulations, highs and lows, challenges, dynamism, makes him go back to the images which are framed. The images are not just based on what he sees, but there is a retouching of the images through his aspirations and emotions that highlights the core of his work. It is in this process of ‘framing and reframing’ of ‘touching and retouching’ that he foregrounds his own language or his mode of representation.”

Murali Cheeroth’s work results from an ongoing investigation into how personal and cultural meanings are formed and expressed.