Friday, 20 April 2018

Thota Laxminarayana - Meet the Artist

To find one’s own voice in the work that one creates is in many ways to have finally arrived... To have your work be its own signature, to have people look at a painting, and to recognize the ‘style’ as yours is a sure indication that you have finally found your place in the scheme of things...

One such happy artist is the man who’s bringing rural India to the urbane world very stylishly...Thota Laxminarayana.

Having spent a good part of his childhood in the villages of Andhra Pradesh, Thota brings to us the brilliant, steamy summers of rural India, with its vibrant colours and the idyllic innocence all wrapped up in a fresh personal idiom. A self-taught artist, Thota has been creating art since the age of eight, inspired by the Nirmal folk art that was all around him.  “I used to paint as a child but I was mostly active with other art forms. I used to act in dramas, make paper jewellery, make clay idols and got into paintings very late. I initially learned on my own from different artists but none taught me the nuances. It was initially a struggle but then I met a person called ‘Guruji.’ Guruji is an expert in Nirmal work and I was blessed to learn a few things under him in Adilabad,” says the artist.

Thus, hugely inspired by the local folk art, Thota determined to pursue art as a full-time career, to keep the tradition alive albeit in a new, contemporary avatar. While his earlier paintings, in oils and acrylics, show some modelling and quieter colours, the artist has moved to flatter applications of paint with forms defined solely by patterns. This is not unlike the work of the Scottish contemporary artist Norman Gilbert, who aims to “make each colour and shape enhance every other colour and shape so it’s entirely satisfactory, so it’s at peace.”

While Norman's paintings (like the one above) usually depict the people around him and their ways, and the scenes from the life that he has lived over the last nine decades or so, Thota reaches into the depths of memory for familiar forms and images of the countryside, of children playing in a village settings, birds sitting on buffaloes, fishes swimming in swirling brooks, village folk going about their business...all seemingly dressed up and ready to roll  down the ramp in their new threads...enabling a renewed appreciation for the commonplace. Where Norman's colours are more muted, the contrasts more controlled, Thota adopts a more strident colour palette, with a far simpler vocabulary of patterns, but with equally arresting appeal. 

Always happy to make the acquaintance of a fellow artist, I was fortunate to get some answers from the ethnically grounded Thota Laxminarayana.  Excerpts from an interview:

Q.   Describe your typical working day.

A.   My daily work routine is as same as everyone. I work 8 to 10 hrs a day. And it goes on every day.  (Waking up at 4 am each day)

Q.   Why did you choose to be an artist? 

A.   Originally, I am from the Nirmal, of Telangana. The atmosphere that I grew in was replete with art – Nirmal paintings, toys and murals. In fact, the imagery of the tiger and deer was painted on almost every home where I stayed. And what I saw in the form of folk art, handicrafts and paintings inspired me to paint and draw.

Q.  What is your goal as an artist?

A.  Through my art I want to showcase our culture, tradition in contemporary way. And making our next (future) generations not to forget their culture and traditions.
Q.  What inspires you to paint/create every day?

A.  The cultural aspect of life is what inspires me to paint. In fact, my works are documentaries of different people and aspects of life. For instance: the Duphliwala  (drum player) series is an example of what I aspire to paint. I feel there is a big need to document our culture and I try to do this in my works.
Q.   How do you choose your subjects?

A.   My subjects are my childhood memories, the environment I lived in, the things I saw and many more.
Q.   Are you happy being an artist?

A.   Yes. My biggest struggle was convincing my father that I wanted to peruse art as a full-time career. And my father did not see this as a secure future for me. But, once I started painting seriously and approaching galleries I became confident. I took steps to move out of my village and find a footing in Hyderabad. I did face financial issues but gradually these sorted out as I started painting with more conviction and devotion. 


Q.   If you weren’t paid for it, would you still paint/create?
A.   Yes, I will paint. It has been my passion from my childhood.

Q.  What advice would you give to the aspiring artists?

A. This is a very good field. There are so many sources and many ways like Painting. Designing, Sculpture, Textile designing, Advertising and more…
Q.   What have been the important turning points or influences in your artistic journey?

A.  I think there was no turning point for me. My artistic journey was slow and steady. I just followed my heart throughout my journey.

Q.   Which are your favourite mediums/colours?

A.   I like all the mediums and colours. I use all of them in my works. Now am doing acrylic colours.
Q. What is art for you?
A.  It is my life.

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