Nirmala Biluka (NB) in conversation with Y. Shivarama Chary(SC)
NB: So, tell me about the conception of this show, how and when did you both plan this kind of collaborative show?
SC: Actually, we had thought about this concept two years ago. The idea came as we would work together for certain commission works in early stages of our careers. That was when I realized that we have great compatibility and gave good suggestions to each other and the output was always good. In the same way, like you know, I thought why not work together on the same piece of art. Just like musicians, performers or cinema is a team work. There are multiple artists working in tandem with each other and each individual’s talent adds to the overall output. I thought why not artists also work in similar fashion and see what happens!
That was the intention but surely I would not be able to work with any random person, I wanted someone who was likeminded and comfortable to work with and someone who would inspire me with his own work. At the same time he has to be comfortable with me too! So, that’s how I chose Anand to be best for this collaboration….and later on perhaps I can work with others as well. The main motto was to start something like this in Visual art as it happens in Cinema or music and any other field and many times the success rate of such endeavours is always higher than individual outcome. Just as a curated show is likely to be more successful as it has a plan and artists work accordingly, we too had a plan and how to make it a success!
NB: So, you mean this show was a successful one?
SC: Definitely! Whatever we had conceived, was achieved. We did not have a problem working together. I gave my sculptures to Anand and he added his own painting style to them and gave them finishing touches… In my perception, I think they have improvised by Anand’s intervention. Of course, there is no end to an art work, I always think that this is a never ending journey…whatever artwork you produce and see after a while… you always feel like there’s more to be done…but after Anand’s involvement I feel that the work is fulfilled….
NB: So, you think this collaboration was possible only with Anand Gadapa? How would the result be any different if you had collaborated with any other artist?
SC: I don’t mind working with other artist friends like Bharat, Ravikanth or you…in fact anybody who is likeminded…. But some artists may be too individualistic and stick to initial sketch or plan of action… whereas I go with the flow…. I work with nature of the material I am using and transform my plan accordingly…. my work depends on the compatibility with the medium and material… I always keep options…a,b,c… and I am never fixed with a strict plan as I’m flexible with the result.
NB: Okay… can you talk about the metal embossing technique.. you have worked with for this particular show? Apparently, you had learnt this traditional method from your father…. Could you share the process and method… how this is done and how is it different from your other works?
SC: Yeah….in fact metal sheet embossing was the first technique I learnt when I was very young from my late father who was a traditional sculptor. He used to work in this method a lot. He would draw the sketch…. carve it then emboss it with beating of the metal. He would do the main figure and then he would ask me to do the texturing on the background…. That’s how I started learning the process…but often I would ask him why he would not allow me to do the central figure instead… he would simply respond….you can do it later on…..Then one day he suggested me why don’t I use this technique for my own style of work… The first piece I did was a makara thorana with my own drawing….which I still possess till now….
NB: Fine…. is this the first time you are showing your works done in this process… that are mostly two dimensional?
SC: Yes… after working in various mediums and creating large scale sculptures in metal, I thought about preserving our traditional methods of sculpture but present it in a newer approach…..so, why not do something I did not explore much…..
NB: Hmmm… Usually you work in large scale or monumental sculptures and in contrast these works are small…How did you feel while doing these small format relief sculptures? Was there any difference?
SC: For a long time … I had a desire to work in small format… nowadays, people do not have big houses or spaces to accommodate large scale sculptures…. so, I pushed myself to work in small sizes and mostly wall hangings…and metal embossing suited best for this kind of work… I thought of father ….how they worked hard in their times… made their own tools and instruments… similarly their working hours and dedication….inspired me. One thing that was pinching me was the fact that all these traditional mediums are getting neglected, it was then that I decided to take up the technique again…. And I also thought that my assemblages in scrap metal would not go well with Anand’s style of painting… So, ultimately I took to relief sculpture and terracotta that would compliment with painting.
NB: Alright…what else…? Tell me about the concepts you have dealt with in the present relief works?
SC: Coming to concept…… I have chosen what I have been working with in the past too….like Blossoming love, Prakriti- Purusha etc basically man – woman relationship along with nature. Depending on the medium and limitations of the material used, I have chosen minimal forms….however I tried not to make them typically decorative….but to use simplified forms… like few leaves to represent nature etc…
NB: How was the audience response for this kind of collaborative initiative?
SC: It was great… I mean… like you know… I could see the success of the venture in each viewer’s response… every one enjoyed the work and appreciated our effort… that’s what I was aiming for… I am content…
NB: So you believe Anand’s painting has complimented your sculpture and vice versa? Are you sure it has not overpowered the minimalistic approach of your reliefs?
SC: No…. not at all… in fact, we are complimenting each other’s work…and this is not my opinion but the viewers’ ….not a single person said that it was not going well or did not like the output…you know… the talk was positive… and everybody enjoyed our attempt.
NB: Well are you planning to continue this endeavor?
SC: Surely…. somebody was calling me ‘trending bro..’ from our show title, ‘Trending Tweets’…hahaha.. Yes I am planning to collaborate with few more friends of mine and do a traveling show … A show at Chennai is already lined up in February, then we plan to take to other cities like Bangalore, New Delhi etc.
Nirmala Biluka (NB) in conversation with Anand Gadapa (AG)
NB: Tell me Anand, how did you think of a collaborative show and how was your experience in working together with Shiva in this format?
AG: Yeah…this is the first question everybody is asking… how did we think of this collaboration. That itself means that we have been successful in our effort…. The idea of collaboration here is not only in terms of work but overall understanding and supporting of each other. As Shiva mentioned before, we did several commercial projects together, organized art camps, events, shows…etc. every time I helped Shiva and in return Shiva would help me…. He supported me during my studies and also after coming back to Hyderabad. After leaving Baroda, he provided accommodation at his studio, where I did some terracotta sculptures and helped him in formulating some of his ideas in writings. Whenever he had an innovative idea, he would share it first with me….so, in that way, we were always collaborating with each other……knowingly or unknowingly… In a sense it is nothing new….Even when I was living in Baroda, we would share ideas constantly….
NB: You mean it happened naturally…?
AG: Yes… definitely…. it was natural.
NB: Generally artists have problem working along with fellow artists….as each one has their own ideas and not necessarily understand or accept others viewpoint…. so isn’t it difficult to work together?
AG: Yes… you are right… artists are very individualistic and conceptually different, culturally they may be different, their ideologies differ…but fortunately… we understood each other’s ideologies and controlled our egos…. slowly it becomes a bond… that’s what I try to show in my paintings…. relationship between human beings…So… talking about the idea of a collaborative show…. we thought of this two years back….we wanted to involve others as well but before that we wanted to set an example of how a collaboration could work. By doing this, we are trying to say that the final product or piece of work should be given importance and not the authorial intention of the artist. We did not deliberately try to move away from figurative style that is prevalent in Hyderabad but rather tried to stay rooted in our culture and traditions. Although I am aware of global trends in Art such as new media, Post modern art, I wanted to embrace what is trending in Hyderabad, that is very close to its culture and identity…..hence my work is stylized and inspired from local traditions of leather puppetry and other folk styles while Shiva also attempted to revive traditional process of metal embossing…… However our intention is to reach out to global audiences by carrying forward an indigenous flavor….. When we talk about collaboration…in art, I asked Shiva whether he would be working on my work or the other way round…..? Is it like artists Tukral and Tagra’s work…? I told him… I don’t know the exact meaning of collaboration…I said that he had to make sculptures.. and I would add something to them….but in future he could also work on my paintings or we both create sculptures together….. that would be true collaborative work….
NB: So… were you comfortable working this time?
AG: Of course….. I was comfortable…. As I mentioned earlier, we worked together for more than a decade…this is not a short time… we understood each other’s needs, comforts and discomforts etc… So there is no question of disagreement or rejecting his ideas….similarly he would accept my suggestions…That’s how we grew together in art field….
NB: Ok tell me something about your friendship…. how and when did you meet?
AG: Oh…well… If I have to talk about our friendship… it was not coincidental….rather we met out of compulsion…both of us were in search of commission works as we were struggling to make our both ends meet… we somehow knew each other and whenever Shiva got a project he would share with me…and I would give him suggestions on executing them….also work on them..
Then we realized that we had to take care of our individual careers and I moved on to Baroda… nevertheless, our friendship continued as he would support me mentally, morally and sometimes financially…. He would also coordinate exhibitions from Hyderabad that I curated in Baroda. Our friendship was very natural…..Art was the only common thing between us.. it bonded us all this while….
NB: Alright…. Can you talk about the concepts or subjects you dealt with in the works exhibited here?
AG: Again my concepts are also very natural… I observe human beings and their ontological relationship with nature….similarly our friendship…. it is a bond that grows and develops after certain nourishing … mutual exchange….and some negotiations….
NB: But I also see many themes inspired from Mythological characters, such as Raavan, Sita, Dashavatara etc… and also some portraits, even the style of painting varies why is it so?
AG: Yes… I take inspiration from mythology as they also talk about human relations….Coming to style….many must have not realized that I use different techniques or styles such as cut colors for acrylic and flowing water colors that are almost illustrative for paper work….But is it necessary to have a single style for art…? I don’t think so… Suppose I develop a unique style for a span of forty years and after that my temperament changes…then how can I stick to that style? Each work has to be looked at individually or as a series… I do not believe in styles as long as the idea is put across….
NB: What I was referring to is that …. for eg, the portraits are not necessarily mythical whereas most of your watercolors depict mythological characters or reinterpretations of them, so is it because of the subject that you tend to use different styles or approaches?
AG: Exactly… my concerns are bonds and human relations…That’s what I try to explore in common human beings from day to day life or from Mythological stories….. A bond is formed after belief or trust and it is broken by deception… I see humans as always masquerading behind their masks or puppet like bodies as they try to play roles given to them or chosen by them….. If we take mythical characters there is always good and evil … such dichotomies exist everywhere like black and white… Yin and yang in Shiva’s work.. Hence I use cut out or puppet like figure who can be anybody..sometimes male or female….identity is blurred… However our culture is rooted in myths and we learn about nature of humans from these stories….and how each character is personification of some human emotion or nature….but fail to see beyond dichotomies…. Hence my images are ambiguous….satirical, funny and witty…they never have a single or direct meaning and are open to interpretations….connotations and denotations…. I am interested in the secondary meaning an image evokes… for instance it can be a simple portrait holding a flower but it could mean many more things like sexuality, love etc…
SC: Finally, I just want to add that art activity is the only thing that bonded us…together till now and will continue to do so in future too…. When we talk we always discuss what should the next art activity should be and how would it benefit fellow artists.
NB: So how was the response from audience…?
AG: As Shiva said it was very positive… people liked and appreciated our collaborative works in particular.
NB: Hmm… next time can we hope to see Shiva working on your paintings…then?
SC: Surely… I am ready… In fact, there were no comments on our collaborative pieces… I have already started working on two dimensional surface…maybe next time… who knows, I might work on paper!
AG: I believe that collaboration is basically giving each other’s work, a space….or a platform..or giving inputs to each other… next time we have an idea… Shiva is going to give me a beautiful and gigantic sculpture as the base for me to work on…!!