How a partially blind artist sees the world: ‘There is art in everything’

Natesh Muthuswamy’s works (above) represent an era of cultural consciousness of Tamil Nadu. The figures of human beings, birds and animals acquire an element of theatre and folk in his drawings.

Six months ago, artist Natesh Muthuswamy lost 70 per cent of his vision due to diabetic retinopathy. A peripheral neuropathy followed. Now, restricted to a chair with a spectacle fitted with high-powered magnifying lenses, Natesh says he will continue drawing with his blurred vision. “I have lost my focus. But I can manage with what is left. I draw a lot of baby elephants now,” says the 62-year-old.

A couple of weeks ago, he published his book, Before Becoming Blind, a collection of 82 sketches by him. “I published my book because somewhere I am conditioned to think that art is a book,” he says. “I saw many art books as a student at the library of the Madras School of Arts [now known as the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai]. I always thought art was in the form of a book, a reason why I brought out a compilation of my works in the form of a book.”

As a child, Natesh started drawing on papers that his mother brought home from her work. Even though his penchant for drawing got strengthened in the coming years, Natesh miserably failed in science and mathematics while pursuing his Bsc (physics) at the Loyola College, Chennai. It was during this time Natesh’s father Na Muthuswamy founded the famous contemporary Tamil theatre group Koothu-P-Pattarai (in 1977). With writers, artists and activists as visitors, his house in Chennai became a melting pot of ideas.

Natesh grew up witnessing the political and social developments in Tamil Nadu as well as in the country. However, Muthuswamy was worried about his son’s failure in academics. So, he asked Natesh to join the Government College of Arts and Crafts, to pursue art, his favourite subject.

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