The rich, in colours

Artist Rajeshwara Rao's observation on the newly rich is the focus of his recent artworks

At the international group show at Hyderabad’s Kalakriti Art Gallery in 2011, the blue tones of watercolour for the Old City of Hyderabad and its people just before a curfew was lifted, and another one titled Half-Brother were among the works of artist Rajeshwara Rao.

His solo show, Desire-Us (2017), in the same city, had admirable creations in paper-cut and ink, as well as paper mache. The brash attitude and the flashy lifestyle of the nouveau riche, especially the women, formed the subject of this satirical, humorous series of 20 works. Yet, respect for women, their strength, and their right to make choices informed them. The notable features of the paintings were the cuts, delineation of jewellery & clothes, and selective scratching-out of the paint across the frames to create a 3D effect. 

An observation

He finds the nouveau riche a subject of enduring fascination.”I have seen the area in which I live transform from a sleepy, backward rural area to one of sudden wealth (during 2002-03), thanks to the coming together of a financial boom, mostly real estate, as well as a global economic boom. Along with the environment, people here changed greatly; they acquired urban lifestyles and began flaunting their wealth in many ways. So, my new work is indeed satirical, and yes, it has a lot of black humour.”

Hyderabad-based Rajeshwara Rao has approximately 15 solo shows to his credit; they were held across the country at venues like Sakshi Gallery in Bengaluru, Apparao Art Gallery in Chennai, Gallery Espace in New Delhi and Sakshi Gallery in Mumbai. He has conducted five workshops. And, he has participated in 25 group shows. These include a show in London and another in the US. He has participated in 10 painting camps and three printmaking camps.

Rajeshwara Rao is a full-time freelance artist and works from his studio-cum-home (it was his dream born in 1997) in Hyderguda village (near Attapur) in the suburbs of Hyderabad. The first floor constitutes the home. The second floor is his wife Padma Reddy’s studio. She is a printmaker. “We have many discussions about art,” he says. He works in various mediums, primarily acrylic on acrylic sheet, and canvas.

The bearded, 57-year-old Rajeswara Rao reminiscences about his childhood and the influences that shaped his career choice, and the nature of work. His father, Antayakula Paidiraju, a well-known artist, hailed from Vizianagaram (near Visakhapatnam) in Andhra Pradesh. Paidiraju founded and ran the School of Arts and Crafts in Vizianagaram.

Says Rajeshwara Rao, “My father is my first guru and my inspiration for technique and approach.” His father encouraged him when he chose art as his academic pursuit. In 1977, he joined Andhra University for a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. He followed this up with a master’s degree in the same subject, an MFA from the Central University of Hyderabad in 1988-90. “Among the many wonderful teachers was artist Laxma Goud. He influenced me as well — his attitude towards his profession and his discipline. The Thanjavur painting style has also influenced me.”

Space of his own

Today, he is working on his own. However, when students visit him for advice, he does give them a few informal lessons. He goes to academic institutions when he is invited for lectures or medium demonstrations. About his current work, he says, “I am working with acrylic on canvas. The concept is ‘New Billionaires’.”

Art may be his obsession, but he is also a (Carnatic) music lover. “I also liked watching movies during my childhood. So, many of my works have titles inspired by Telugu and Hindi films,” he adds. Does he have any message for aspiring artists? He says he is still a student himself. “I love art. I simply believe in working hard. I arrive at 8 am in my studio and work till 8.30 in the night with small breaks in between.” 

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The rich, in colours

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