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A Soldier who speaks through Paintings

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By Suresh Unnithan

Artist Ranjith Thalavoor

Thiruvananthapuram: In simple terms painting can be described as the application of paint, pigment or another medium to a surface applied with a paintbrush. But for Ranjith, a young retired soldier, it’s a culture, passion and an obsession. “As the great (Leonardo) da Vinci said every painting is a poetry that is seen rather than felt. I express my feelings and thoughts to the world through my paintings.”

Ranjith recalls that as a young boy of six or seven he recreated a caricature by a renowned artist and everyone appreciated his talent. “From a young age I used to portray nature with pencil and later started painting with colors. As I grew my interest in painting intensified and spent most of the time with my brush.”

Even after joining the Army Ranjith continued with his painting and got many accolades. “In my early days as a student I had two options in my life. First was to become an acclaimed artist and the second was to be a soldier. My second dream came true and the first one also followed. Now I am a proud soldier and a passionate Artist.”

Ranjith says the service in the armed forces sharpened and enhanced his artistic talent. “During my service as a soldier I could travel to different places, experience different cultures, meet a variety of people and experience different landscapes. These experiences enthused and encouraged the artist in me for new creations. Every trip gifted me with new thoughts for novelty in my creations.

A Charcoal painting from Ranjith

Quoting the great Pablo Picasso Ranjith says with a silent smile “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

It is true, “Art is a way to express many things. It’s a way to deal with feelings that cannot be expressed through typical means like conversation or words. Art gives a way to express your emotions.”

Rajith says “the artistic creations should not be seen as a dead article.  Every creation has life and it conveys you certain messages and emotions. To read them you should know their language.”

He is right. According to Dr. Shelley Carson, renowned psychologist and lecturer at Harvard University who authored the famous book “Your Creative Brain”,  art  has the exceptional ability to improve our mood, broadens our attention and allows us to see further possible solutions to creative problems.

Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at the University College of London, has found in his research that when we stare at great art, our brain is stimulated as when we fall in love. Art brings increased levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that aids in controlling the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

This could be the reason art therapy has been proved effective in treating mental ailments.

According to Dr Wahida Mutrhi, a senior medical practitioner specialised in art therapy and Biography Counselling, art gives us meaning and helps us understand our world.

It is scientifically established that art appreciation improves our quality of life and makes us feel good. When we create art, we elevate our mood, we improve our ability to problem solve, and open our minds to new ideas.

Ranjith believes that art can transform our lives. “Artistic creations will lead us to soul searching.  Art helps us to realize who we are.” He also added “Art is a way to express our inner thoughts, feelings. It’s a way to deal with emotions that cannot be expressed through conversations or words.”

It is right to say “art is a different language-Art says things that even words cannot say. You don’t need a language to understand Art. Just a small painting, or a food item, or improvising a tune or a step, can express a lot of things without words.”

Ranjith as an elected ward member of Thalavoor Gramapanchayath is active in the society.”In fact my artistic engagements provide lots of positive energy for social work. I should say an artist can also be a good social activist with creative involvement. I wish the younger generation gets lessons in arts so that they can be creative in their thoughts and deeds.”

Ranjith is lucky that his little daughter Amaya Ranjith has an extra fascination to colours, which may be inherited from her father. His wife Saumya Unnithan also appreciates her Soldier husband’s artistic ventures.

Rajith has won many honors for his creations, “but I consider the appreciation from APJ Abdulkalam Sir former president of India) the most precious.”

Ranjith’s house also depicts his artistic flavor. It is a traditional “Nalukettu” and its inner and outer walls are adorned with his paintings of Naga Tribes and Kerala traditional arts like Theyyam. Interestingly the house is totally built with laterite and its interior is fully done by Ranjith himself using a mixture of slaked lime, Jaggery and powdered river sand. “I did the interior on my own during the Covid lockdown.  Of course, my wife and the little girl were my assistants. I wanted this to be an eco-friendly home.”

After interacting with this Proud Soldier who’s heart beats for the Nation and Art alike I also feel “Painting is the grandchild of nature. It is related to God.  Yes, Art gives us meaning and helps us understand our world.”

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