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First Supper

- August 8, 2022

Francis Kodankandath/ Aneesh Kuttan/ Uma Rao

It is the way of presentation of the art, the distinctive nature of the art that makes an artist notable. It is the individual, personalized style the artist adopts in the art that goes on to become the signature brand, the stamp of the artist that gets imprinted on all the works of his art. This style that identifies the artist gets developed over years of honing one’s skill, over years of devotion to the art and, of course, with the divine grace that guides the artist and it helps to recognize the style as one’s own. ‘First Supper’, the painting that brought the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi State Award, the third State level recognition, to Francis, draws the attention of the keen observer to the characteristic style emerging in the paintings of Francis, to be distinguished as the Kodankandath style.
What was the Kodankandath style? How did this take form? It is ‘The First Supper’ that gives an answer to these and many similar questions of the art lovers. This painting elaborates on the genesis of this style and also shows how this style was reflected in each of the paintings of Francis Kodankandath that followed.
After completing his studies in college, the artist was pursuing internship for a while in the Chartered Accountancy firm called Abraham and Jose in Thrissur.Mr M E Thomas Maliekkal who had been his senior there, began a new firm ‘Thrissur Computers’. Francis had gifted a painting to the Thrissur Computers on the occasion. Several years went by.

The leading supermarket chain Varkey’s had entrusted the work of computerization of the establishment to Thrissur Computers. Mr Varkey, the owner of Varkey’s, in one of his visits to Thrissur Computers happened to notice this painting. It could probably be because he liked the painting that he enquired about the artist. Following this, Mr Varkey also desired that the artist make a new painting for his house that was being newly constructed. Mr Varkey wanted the painting to be placed in the dining room of the house and hence requested that a painting be made based on the concept of Christ’s Last Supper. This incident took place in 1991.

The work on the new painting began with fixing a canvas within a frame measuring six feet in length and five feet in breadth. ‘The Last Supper’, painted by the renowned maestro Leonardo da Vinci is familiar to all. Hence Francis decided to paint ‘The First Supper’. According to the traditional Jewish custom, while sitting for supper, the master sits in the centre with the disciples on both sides, thus giving the shape of inverted English letter ‘U’. This information was given by his father on an earlier occasion. In da Vinci’s painting, one would notice that it was just on one side of a long table that the Lord sat in the centre with the disciples flanked on His either side in a straight line.
It was during the period when Francis had just begun work on this painting that he was selected as Intelligence Officer and transferred from Central Excise Thrissur Division to Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (D.R.I.) Kozhikode. Hence, he would come every weekend to Thrissur to be with his family. He would work on the painting during the weekends. As a result, the colors he painted on the canvas on a weekend would be absolutely dry by the following weekend. Gradually the painting took the form of separate, individual pieces. As the painting was being done over several weekends, the various areas of the painting appeared independent of each other, like a jigsaw puzzle. The artist then got the idea of linking, joining all the pieces on the canvas to each other by bold black lines. Thus was born the Kodankandath style! Due to pressures at the work front, it took Francis over a year to complete the painting. By that time, the owner of the Varkey’s chain of supermarkets had relocated to Ernakulam, and the house in Thrissur that he had proposed to live in and where he had wanted the painting to adorn the wall of the dining room, was converted into a godown!
It was during this period that the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi called for entries for the State Art exhibition to be held that year. Since the artist had the particular painting with him and since the person who had requested for that painting had forgotten all about it, the artist submitted that painting for the State Exhibition. Divine grace once again shone upon the artist. The painting won outstanding acclaim and was selected for the State Award that year. Thus with ‘The First Supper’, the artist won his third State level recognition