Aesthetics of Rustic Telangana – Thota Vaikuntam మార్చి 21, 2008Posted by Telangana Utsav in Art, Articles, Essays, Telangana.
Born in 1942, in Boorugupally, in Andhra Pradesh, Thota Vaikuntam took a diploma in painting and a degree in fine arts at the College of Fine Arts, Hyderabad, and also won a fellowship from the MS University of Baroda, where he worked under the tutelage of K.G. Subramanyan. In a career that has spanned nearly 30 years, he has been regarded as the most prominent figurative painter living today. He has won several awards, his paintings are a part of several renowned collections and his works have been exhibited widely.
Using powerful images of Telangana women, rather redefining them, and is accountable for taking them all over the globe; he elucidates and embodies the rich meaning of feminine beauty. However, the eroticism in his protagonists appears very subtle and merely suggestive.
The flowing ‘line’ of Vaikuntam has a paranormal quality signifying both form and dimensions. Moreover, he deliberately converts it into volume and into one of decorative motif to cater his energetic space. His endeavors appear to be, to create, bring a serenity of character and harmony between an imaginative concept and his technical expertise.
The man of vibrant spaces, Thota Vaikuntam, one of the senior artists of Hyderabad inaugurated a show titled Tryst with Telangana, which comprised the works of young and eminent artists of Hyderabad at Sarjan Art Gallery, Baroda. When Anand Gdapa confronted him with his first question, the immediate response was strategic, yet self-contradictory.
AG: Let me put it directly that, your ‘language’ is too much ‘formalistic’, decorative and stereotypical. So, where do you locate yourself in changing paradigms of ‘representation’?
TV: I think, as an artist one has to be true to oneself, his personal experience and expression. I have always given importance to ‘formalistic’ values in a work of art. The sinuous lines and dots in the saree of ‘Telangana women’, the exuberant colours and earthy skin tones are very much part of my nostalgic childhood and I remain bound to it. As an artist, I have never found it compulsory to avoid the decorative. In fact, I have always welcomed it as a fundamental part of our culture. We all are decorative by nature. Men or women, we love to decorate ourselves with ornaments, with flowers, with clothes, bindis, and cosmetics that are how women in Telangana dress, with dazzling saris and blouses. Well, there are others, who lean towards conceptual understanding of art, which I do not negate. Whatever it may, be these are only dissimilar ways of looking at things.
AG: Who were your close companions in Baroda school of arts?
TV: There were few but very affectionate. Among them, Mr. Hemendra Bhatt, Mr. Rohit Zaveri, Mr.P.D. Dhumal and Mrs. Rini Dhumal were very close to me, we had great time. There was a kind of ‘hippy culture’; we used to have a great fun. I did really enjoy my stay in Baroda. Mr. Jyothi Bhatt would guide me quite often; he used to be very helpful, well-composed and dignified person.
This untitled work of T.Vaikuntam sold for Rs 46 lakhs in an auction by Saffronart.
AG: What made you to choose “Telangana woman” as your subject matter and how did it become prominent in Andhra as an icon for many artists?
TV: After I returned from Baroda, I started looking at native sources for inspiration. Many folk performers visit our village. I would fall in love with every female artist who came to my village. Such was my passion for the people involved in the performing arts. As I always liked drawing and sketching imagery of my mother became a subject matter. She belonged to traditional Marathi vaishya family. I still remember her enormous bindi, typical earrings (gentelu) and flowing line and curves in the saree. By then Laxma Goud also had started depicting rural life. It was after a long period of struggle that I came up with the Telangana women. I made several charcoal drawings, large and small of human figures, torsos, full sizes and finally shifted from my erotic language. Otherwise, people would scare of coming to my exhibitions (laugh). However, the shift was not consciously done and I guess ‘Telangana woman’ became my identity. You know….discovering his own idiom is an artist’s primary struggle! Since then, I continued to paint these women on and on. I love to paint women with dark complexion, turmeric on the fore head and body with bright and colourful clothes. With their gigantic bindis, lustrous nose rings and dazzling Sircilla sarees, however, I am portraying men along with the Telangana women. Nevertheless, the ‘Telangana woman’ brought me a unique identity.
AG: About other few artists of Andhra?
TV: Many of them are belonging to same Telangana region; it is obvious that, their inspirations are similar. Nevertheless, their approaches to rustic language are quite different.
AG: Whether any ‘feminist’ influences that provoked your work?
TV: As I told you, nothing happened consciously. There might be feminist provocation, I do not know but certainly, ‘woman’ as subject matter, came about where I tried to see aesthetic beauty in the female form, distorted and designed in my own way; also highly respected as ‘mother goddess’ in our region. We have a tradition of worshipping deities like Pochamma, Ellamma, Mashamma, Maremma etc. and most of the times women are heads of the families.
AG: As an artist what was the significant breakthrough in your life?
TV: Well, I cannot point at a single event but it might be after my come back from Baroda, where I continued to teach at Balbhavan and did rigorous work. It was then that I had an opportunity to work with B. Narsing Rao. I stepped into the film field as an Art Director and in 1998 won the national best Art Director award for the Telugu period film, Dassi, directed by him. At the same time, I got national award from Central Lalit Kala Academi. Moreover, definitely the tutelage of Mani da has helped me a lot. I still respect him as my guru and each of his students will always be proud of his immense guidance.
AG: You were the art director for films like Mabhoomi, Rangulakala, Dasi etc. and what would be the next one?
TV: (laugh) now I have no time for films.
AG: Could you give me an account of your experience with Laxma Goud?
TV: Laxma as you know was my senior but always supported me as a close friend. I am a great admire of him for his enchanting mastery of drawing. In fact, he would come to look at my drawings and one day he picked up six of them and instructed our framer, Sattaiah to frame them together. The idea clicked so well that I continued making small works and joining them together. He always encouraged artists and inspired with his wonderful ability of drawing things. One should practice drawing things around as he does, in order to develop the sense of perfection in creating interesting forms.
AG: Finally, let me enquire one thing. Can we expect any adjustment or transformation of your language in the near future?
TV: Everybody raise a similar question….when will I move beyond this motif that I’ve been doing for so long and I am accused of repetition. But I’m not done yet, I need to work on more about rustic life. Well, how can I explain u that there is a change every moment? You can see I switched to black and white, but many people are asking for paintings, which I stopped doing right now.
source: matters of art http://www.mattersofart.com/Features70.html