A few years ago I worked on a book of historic homes in Chennai. Sketches of the various residences accompanied the text. After the release of the book, an architect friend whose work I admire, met me and said that while the book was fine, some of the sketches lacked a sense of perspective. The conversation then turned to artists who in her view had the best sense of that. And she unhesitatingly placed Manohar Devadoss at the top of the list.
There are many lists on the top of which Manohar Devadoss would find himself; indeed if a compilation of the world’s most positive thinkers was ever made, he and his late wife Mahema would like Abou Ben Adhem lead all the rest. How else can you explain such joy of living despite her having been quadriplegic for over three decades and he having practically nil vision owing to retinitis pigmentosa?
Manohar is an accomplished artist, who despite failing vision, kept churning out some of the most amazing sketches of whatever took his fancy — pastoral scenes, the rocky landscape surrounding Madurai, temples, churches, people — one of my prized possessions is a sketch of a tribal girl that he did several years ago. For that matter, I treasure every note, letter or document that comes from Manohar, for it will have some drawing in it — a butterfly, a bamboo shoot or a star.
All of these sketches of his are marked by his flawless sense of perspective. The angle from which the artist has seen the object that is featured is as accurate as that of a camera. This is best seen in Manohar’s works on buildings, perhaps the finest compilation of which is his fourth book Multiple Facets of My Madurai . The work under review is his fifth.
From an Artist’s Perspective , sponsored by Ranvir Shah’s Prakriti Foundation, has Manohar revealing his secrets on perspective. A self-trained artist, he arrived at this knowledge not by reading books but through painstaking trial and error, the first awareness being kindled by seeing railway trains moving at high speeds even as he watched them from close by. The book is ideal for engineering students, draughtsmen, artists and amateurs wanting to draw. It combines theory with practice . How I wish text books in schools and colleges would have this fluidity and ability to capture our attention in full. The book is written in such a personal fashion that you can almost hear Manohar’s voice speaking to you through the lines of text.
It has usually been Manohar’s habit to declare at every book launch of his that this was his last work. And I have always predicted that there will soon be another. In any case most of his books go into multiple editions and this one should be no exception. I sincerely hope that engineering, architecture and art colleges of India make a beeline to purchase this book for their libraries or even better, make it a part of their course curriculum.
The book is available for sale exclusively from Manohar’s residence. Those interested can contact him at 24982484. The work is priced at Rs.280 and proceeds from the sale, as in all of Manohar’s works, go to charity.
This review appeared in The Hindu under the Literary Review section on Sunday August 3, 2014