Theyyam, paintings of a ritual

I am lucky enough to have some clients who do something that gives me a change from the kind of product photography that usually keeps me busy. Two of them are artists who have their work photographed for exhibition brochures, websites or to sell as limited edition prints.

Male Thayyam dancer by Lilliane Gosling
Male Thayyam dancer by Lilliane Gosling. Photography by Tony May. Copyright T May/L Gosling.

One of them is my friend and talented Leeds artist, Lilliane Gosling.  Lilliane’s latest exhibition,  “Theyyam, Paintings of a ritual “ is going to be running at Otley Courthouse from April 2nd to 29th.  I love the large acrylic on canvas paintings and her use of colour. I’m reproducing some of my favourite pieces here. Much of Lilliane’s painting and inspiration comes from her travels. Theyyam is a form or ritual Hindu worship and dance performed in Malabar, Kerala state, India, a living cult with several-thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs. Performances may last many hours.

Theyaam dancers, a Lilliane Gosling painting.
Truth Theyyam by Lilliane Gosling. Photography by Tony May. Copyright L Gosling/T May.

When copying works of art, accurate reproduction of colour is central to the process. Colour accuracy may be critically important and the top priority of the artist (even though when printing brochures the printing process will limit the colours that can be reproduced). In this case the photographs of Lilliane’s Theyyam paintings were intended mainly for reproduction as high quality inkjet fine art prints,  the original works all being around 40 inches by 30 inches.  So the objective was to be able to make a reproduction of the painting that would have impact when printed and framed at around 18 inches high, whilst still being faithfully close to the original acrylic colours and retaining subtle shadow and highlight detail in the painting.

Theyyam ritual, painting by Lilliane Gosling.
Great Mother Theyyam, painting by Lilliane Gosling. Photography by Tony May. Copyright T May/L Gosling.

The paintings were hung in my studio, lit with studio flash heads and shot on a Hasselblad with a Phase One P25+ back. The texture of the canvas is clearly visible at 100% resolution in the captured images. Processing of the raw files and colour editing was performed in Capture One Pro v6 with artist and photographer sitting down at a calibrated and profiled Eizo ColorEdge monitor to perform the final edits and tweaks to colour and contrast.  Inkjet proofs were produced using an Epson SP 2100 printer on various coated fine art papers and small curves adjustments were made in Photoshop where necessary.

100% Detail of Theyyam painting by Lilliane Gosling
100% detail view of an approximately 5 inch high section of the 40 inch original.

I love these paintings and their evocation of something that seems foreign and unknown but is an ancient ritual specific to a small area. If you are in Yorkshire in April, go along to the Courthouse in Otley and see the original works.  You can order prints at the exhibition or by contacting me using the contact option at the head of this page.

For more on Theyyam see “Theyyam” in Wikipedia.

Exhibition, Theyyam, paintings or a ritual by Lilliane Gosling.
Exhibition Poster. Germinal Theyyam. Copyright Lilliane Gosling.