Ancient Wall frescoes revived on canvas – The story behind Kerala murals

In ancient times, people adorned the walls of temples and churches with paintings depicting mythological legends. One of the most well kept frescoes can still be found in South India, principally in Kerala.

The artists of these wall murals basically imagined god to be in the form of a human. The subjects for the murals were derived from religious texts that described the details. The artists have thus, brought their imagination into life with these paintings. These paintings also follow a particular colour scheme and subjects also are stylised in a certain way that sometimes signifies non-human characteristics Eg: Ganesha – A man’s body with an Elephant’s head, a woman bearing four hands etc. which are actually Hindu deities.

The colour scheme can be explained due to the limited availability of vegetable dies or coloured powders that were smeared within a detailed outline.

(** The featured image is a reproduction. To see how an original fresco looks like, click here **)

Nowadays, there are many talented artists from the region who are bringing the art form back to its glory. The availability of paint in various hues is an added advantage.But, to stick to keeping the art form rooted to the basic scheme, we still use the basic colours that was used in ancient time – yellow, red, blue, green & black.

Kerala murals are mainly painted with acrylic on canvas. To arrive at the final shade, many layers have to be painstakingly painted line by line ( Yes! No smudging here). It starts with the use of Vermillon, Yellow ochre and followed by the other colours based on the subject. To make a modern painting look like a fresco, Burnt Sienna is mixed with every basic colour, to give a “dusty” shade. This is to mimic the colour on the walls  ( The original coloured powder combined with the dust on the wall gives a completely different look to the paintings, the age and natural wear & tear also adds to the colour as seen on the present day )

** The above article is based on my research from various blogs & websites written on the same subject. Below are the references, in case of any objections, kindly contact me – 1.                                                               2. **






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