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A Tribute to Masterpieces: Tomina Mary Jose’s Artistic Homage in Kerala

At the serene Kerala Lalithakala Akademi Art Gallery, nestled within the Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram, a celebration of artistic history unfolds. The air is filled with the essence of creative brilliance as Tomina Mary Jose showcases her solo exhibition, ‘A Study of Great Artists’. This display is not merely a collection of art; it is a deep reverential bow to the doyens of painting, the grand masters whose works have shaped the art world through the centuries.

Tomina Mary Jose, 59, stands amid her recreated masterpieces, 22 iconic paintings that echo the work of legends like Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Salvador Dali, Pierre-August Renoir, William Adolf Bouguereau, Michelangelo, Johannes Vermeer, and Pieter Bruegel. She takes us on a journey back to her formative years at the JJ School of Arts and Crafts in Mumbai, where her initial forays into the world of art were defined by metalwork, papier mâché, and ceramics. However, it was her time in Chennai that sparked the epiphanic moment leading her down the path of recreating famous artworks. It was an encounter with local artists, dedicated to this meticulous craft, that ignited her current passion.

Tomina’s earlier works, like her version of Renoir’s ‘The Umbrellas’, capture the essence of a bustling Parisian street, with umbrellas unfurled against the city’s atmospheric backdrop. This piece, among others, has found its place at the exhibition, retold through Tomina’s artistic lens.

Learning under the tutelage of veteran artist BD Dethan after settling in Thiruvananthapuram was a turning point for Tomina. Despite initial hesitations about recreating iconic artworks, it was Dethan’s encouragement and belief that if she could honor the original’s essence, there was virtue in her endeavor. He championed her talent and saw exhibition as the natural progression of her work, a decision that has brought her unique vision to the public eye.

In ‘A Study of Great Artists’, Tomina pays homage to her cherished muse, Da Vinci, through pieces like ‘Monalisa’, ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’, and ‘Saviour of the World’. Her ambition stretches to Dutch painter Rembrandt with ‘Girl Leaning on a Stone Window Sill’ and ‘A Woman Bathing in the Stream’. She explores Renoir with ‘The Umbrellas’, Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’, Raphael’s ‘The Bridge Water Madonna’, and gives a nod to the surreal with Salvador Dali’s ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’ and ‘Birth of a Divinity’.

In her representations, Tomina articulates it’s not just about the replication of these historic images; it’s also about respectful reinterpretation. For example, she introduces a lush floral backdrop to Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, per a client’s request, while remaining true to the original’s composition. Her adventures in medium and material are equally bold, tackling Gustav Klimt’s ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’, where her rendition diverges into a blend of oil and acrylic, incorporating Tanjore painting techniques and embellishing with Jaipur stones.

Each piece rekindled under Tomina’s careful hand is a story, a snippet of art history, retold and reimagined. The exhibition provokes thought on the nature of creation, on what it means to contribute to a legacy that spans ages, and on how art can be both a study and a celebration. It asks the viewer to ponder the place of re-creativity in the continuum of the artistic narrative.

The exhibition runs until April 24, providing ample opportunity for patrons and art lovers to delve into a world where yesterday’s artistic icons meet today’s interpretative craft. The gallery doors open from 11 am to 7 pm, inviting all to partake in this unique artistic homage where the past is brought to pulsing, vibrant life once more in the heart of Kerala’s capital.