Born in the backwater regions of the Alapuzha district of Kerala, Suresh Muthukulam's childhood was populated by his father's tales of the life and deeds of Krishna and visits to the Krishnapuram Palace, where he would gaze entranced at the mural. He went on to formally study fine art at Mavelikara before joining the Institute of Mural Painting at the Guruvayur Devaswam, where he trained with his guru, the late Mammiyoor Krishnakutty Nair, for five years.
Within the gurukul system they were taught not only the techniques of the Kerala mural tradition, but also the shlokas or sacred verses that informed the iconography of the deities depicted, the philosophy that forms the basis of the colour schemes, the history of the tradition and its links to other visual and performing art forms.
Suresh has extended the art form beyond the palace and temple walls, experimenting with new narratives, materials and formats. Whether on canvas, paper or board, depicting gods and goddesses or topical social issues, Suresh's work attempts to innovate on the classical tradition while retaining its essence - its aesthetic, grammar and symbolism.
Creating works based on topical socio-political issues, scenes from the daily lives of the Kerala backwaters, and reinterpretations of myths, Suresh stresses, that such innovations are restricted to appropriate venues such as the town hall, railway station, museum etc. Temple murals continue to be rendered in the classical manner. Both, however, are treated in a style that is distinctly identifiable with the Kerala mural tradition.
Suresh feels the introduction of new technical and formal elements to the tradition is a natural process. He says, "If one were to compare the work of my guru with that of the two generations of artists before him - his master and his master's master - one will see changes. Each generation has added their mark to the tradition. It is important that the art form adapt if it is to remain relevant."