Born 1967, Kerala, India
Tom Vattakuzhy is a figurative painter, printmaker, and illustrator. His carefully rendered paintings, rich with light and subdued tones, are nestled between the real and the surreal. His intuitive and deliberate compositions evolve from the observed reality, and he mixes them with something inside of him which lends them a mysterious and contemplative quality. His poignant figures, eloquent in gesture and posture, are imbued with a series of evocative associations and memories.
Vattakuzhy has demonstrated an innate artistic talent from a young age. Soon after his school education, resolved to be an artist in life, he began to attend a diploma course at a local art school. It earned him a job as an art teacher in a government aided school though his inner longing was to pursue a career as an artist more seriously. Indulging in his parents’ wish to see their son settled in life, he continued teaching until he mustered the courage to defy them and pursue his life ambition, though uncertain about the future ahead of him.
He joined Kalabhawan, Santiniketan in 1991 where he graduated with a degree in printmaking in 1996. His exposure to the works of Benode Behari and Ramkinkar Baij, and his close associations with doyen artists like K.G. Subramanyan, Somnath Hore, and art historian R. Sivakumar had a significant impact on the formation of his artistic priorities and way of life. Upon completing his master’s degree from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda in 1998, in lieu of keeping him and his art practice in line with the winds of the changing art scene, he delved into a process of unlearning and relearning, reassessing art from medieval times to the present. This became a crucial step in his artistic career and significant influence in the formation of his visual language with structural solidity and organization. In 2010, after realizing that the various teaching jobs had taken a toll on his art practice, he left education to devote himself solely to his art.
Later, with a passion to bring art closer to the society he was born and raised in, he began illustrating periodicals with virtually stand alone paintings he calls ‘story-paintings.’ However, a controversy over one of his works resulted in the retraction of the magazine itself. It left him disillusioned and demoralized, finally doing away with it in 2016. One of his historical paintings titled ‘Death of Gandhi’ received nation wide acclaim and found its way to the cover painting of Kerala budget in 2020. He has been the recipient of awards like AIFACS Award, New Delhi in 1997 and 1998, Kerala Lalita Kala Academy Award in 1997, National Scholarship, HRD New Delhi in 1996 Haren Das Award, Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta in 1995.
The artist lives and works in Muvattupuzha, Kerala.