Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Inlay Marquetry Artist R Puttaraju

R. Puttaraju
Pioneer of relief technique in wood collage and marquetry

His inlays and portraits in wood collage inspires wonder in the mind of onlooker. His various artefacts done in relief technique in wood collage reach out to the beholder. He was the first to make human portraits in wood collage. He pioneered the relief technique which is widely popular. He is R. Puttaraju.

Born to the pious christian couple Richard and Joan Mary in Mulloor, a non-descript village near Kollegal, Puttaraju had his primary education in his village and later studied up to 10th standard at Kollegal.

Every Sunday Puttaraju went to St. Francis Assisi Church at Kollegal; here the beautiful statues of Madonna, St. Antony and Jesus Christ, and oil paintings depicting various biblical stories left an indelible impression on the mind of young lad. The Sunday classes at the church turned out to be the very first platform for his artistic talent. He was asked to draw the sketches of biblical stories to be used as illustrations during the class.  These drawings caught the eye of a German priest, father Handy Kohrt, and he encouraged the lad to draw more.

Two years later Fr. Kohrt moved to Mysore's Philomena college; he pursuaded Raju's parents and made him come to Mysore in 1956. Father sent young Raju to Chamarajendra Technical Institute. 17 year old Puttaraju couldn't gain entry into the fine art course because he was younger, than the stipulated age, by one year. Wishing not to waste a year he took up the inlay certificate course, instead, which didn't mandate minimum age limit. His talent helped him to finish the 5 years' course in just four years. He was deeply impressed by his inlay teacher Latif during these four years. Still, his love for painting hadn't died down. He took up another five year diploma course in fine arts at CTI. So much was his hunger for art, that, he once again completed the course with a year to spare. He stood first in the class all four years. His teachers F.M. Soofi, Y. Subramanya Raju and the Principal M.J. Shuddodhana greatly influenced his creativity.

His passion for drawing proved to be a great gift for his acquired skill of inlay. He could perform all the tasks of inlay single handedly. Making the sketches, choosing the different coloured wood, cutting them into desired shape, scooping the rosewood plank, embedding the cut wooden pieces into those shallow pits, detailing by engraving and finally the scraping and polishing. He could do each and every aspect of inlay which usually required the skills of 6-7 persons. He was equally good at wood collage or marquetry.

All the while he was getting nostalgic about the church back home in Kollegal; its beautiful relief panels of biblical characters were etched into his mind and were tugging at his creativity. He wanted to create something new in inlay like those relief panels - two dimensional in whole but jutting out of its limiting surface, as if to reach out for the onlooker, at places. He extensively experimented with wood collage and finally in 1968 created a panel 'Submission with devotion'. This was the first ever relief work in wood collage; it fetched him the coveted first prize at the Mysore Dasara Exhibition.

Puttaraju's friend who went to Madras coaxed Puttaraju to join him. Thus Puttaraju came to Madras in 1969 and was supplying his inlay creations to Victoria Technical Institute. He worked in Madras Film industry as an assistant art director from 1972-80.

Puttaraju took up inlay work full time and set up a small workshop in Madras with 8-10 assistants. He has trained nearly 60 students, among whom many were Mysoreans. Some 7 students of his have got State awards. In 1993 Puttaraju returned to Mysore and in 1995 he married Philomena who was working as a teacher; she hailed from the neighbouring village of his native.

Puttaraju pioneered the relief technique in wood collage which is now widely popular. He has done inlay of coloured stones on marble stone slab. He has perfected the technique of portraits in inlay. He is very good at sketching, drawing and painting. During his student days he was known in the friend circle as the portrait specialist.

In 2003 a person took all of Puttaraju's works promising to pay handsomely but he neither paid not returned the artefacts. His house at Tilaknagar, workshop and a thriving business of inlay handicrafts, everything was lost during that financial crisis. Now Puttaraju lives in a rented house and along with his wife and three assistants is limping back to normalcy.

In 1980 the selection committee for National award rejected the entry of Puttaraju's 'Mother and Child' panel. Disappointed by the rejection Puttaraju never applied for the award again.

When he was away at Madras he got an invitation from Chicago which was sent to St. Philomena's hostel at Mysore. The invitation was from the NRI, who had bought his first relief work at Dasara Exhibition, to come to Chicago and teach his technique there. He got that invitation a year and a half too late.

The life of Sri R. Puttaraju has been paved with thorns at regular intervals. Disappointments, missed opportunities and financial losses have bogged him down time and again. But a strong spirit to survive has helped him to reinvent himself in the face of adversities. Every time he was left in the lurch his talent and creativity have got him sail through.

Puttaraju was honoured with Rotary Ramsons Kala Pratishtana Award in June 2005. In 2008 he received the coveted Rajyotsava Award honours from the state government of Karnataka.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Book - artists in mysore

Artists in Mysore is a book authored by Naramani Somanath. As the title suggests the author has written on twenty-three artists of Mysore. The Majority of the artists featured are painters in various styles while a few marquetry artists, an avantgarde non-narrative film maker, two poets, a photographer and an architect are also featured. The author explores the respective art practised by each artist and also touches upon the various social and cultural aspects in relation to the artist, there by giving a commentary on their artistic lives without being categorical.

The selection of the artists is not deliberate but rather a random choice, says the author in his introduction. The book begins withK.S. Shreehari. Even though there are many artists painting in Mysore style, the author refers to Shreehari as being the last of our traditional Mysore school painters because he has learned the art in the same old traditional way from his father and grand-father as they did from their’s. The author disapproves other ways of learning this art which is mere copying.

Mysore is quite well-known for its marquetry tradition which is derived from the Italian renaissance. So the author has deemed it fit to include three artists who pratice this art. V.M. Sholapurkar, the former Dean of CAVA deals with marquetry in the sense of ‘modern art’. K. Mohan of Mandi Mohalla has been trained under the traditional masters of inlay and his pictorial marquetry is quite appealing to the author. Eric Sakellaropoulos, a greek, hails from Canada. He has set up a workshop in Mysore and producing marquetry pieces. He is almost renewing the aesthetic of pattern marquetry with his designs.

Vishnudas Ramdas and Raghuttama Putty, both senior artists are the pride of Mysore. Ramdas is an acclaimed portrait artist who has designed more than 35 gardens across India. His contribution to the horticultural architecture remains unknown for us Mysoreans. And as for Putty, he is the oldest living artist of Mysore who still paints at the ripe age of 92. He recently exhibited his landscapes on his 91st birthday.

Girija Madhavan brings a remarkable Japanese sensitivity to her work. She learned under many people around the world and each of her paintings is a masterpiece of vision, skill and sensitivity. Her mother,Mukta Venkatesh, wiled away her hundred years on the flowers of Mysore. Our city still has what must surely be the most beautiful flowering trees in the world. Mukta used to draw and paint flowers as a detailed study.

Two artists of Srilanka who have now adopted Mysore as their home are also featured in this book.Druvinka attended Shantiniketan and fell for the charms of Mysore which rarely stirs up any emotion in we Mysoreans. She paints in several layers of different colours, one upon the other, until the painting looks greyish with hints of colours, underneath, peeping through here and there. Her brother, Shehan Madawela who is residing here since 11 years, is inspired by the local women, the flowers, the food and the light. The faces in his paintings are stark and haunting.

G.L.N. Simha is an artist on his terms. He should be happy with his painting first before anyone else sees it or else the painting never sees the daylight again. The author understands the training tradition Simha has gone through and has made a brief study of this in the article.

M. Nagaraja Sharma is an archaeologist and a photographer. Along with him, the Venezuelan poetRowena Hill and the wellknown poet Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy are featured in the book.

N. Sjoman, is an artist with a sense of humour and a Sanskrit scholar. A Canadian national, he is in love with Mysore for the past three decades. His works are personal statements and take a dig at the existing double standards in the society. He is a writer himself and has co-authored the book ‘Yoga Touchstone’ along with H.V. Dattatreya.

The only architect to be featured in the book, Shashi Bhooshan brought a new aesthetic to the otherwise languishing building architecture of Mysore which once boasted of lovingly built beautiful houses, buildings and palaces.

Though trained in a traditional idiom, Raghupati Bhatta has explored outside the tradition and has been successful in creating tiny worlds within the stifling spaces of narrow cards. Deft strokes of colours transform magically into forms and figures. One of his Visvarupa paintings grace the cover of the book.

N.S. Harsha is a rising star on the horizon of ‘modern art’ and Mysoreans hardly take stock of his creativity. He derives his aesthetics from Mysore, its creatures and contents. A student of CAVA, his paintings and installations are sought after around the globe.

Sami Vaningen is a contemporary art film maker who keeps returning to Mysore, the city where he grew up. Among his 15 films few were shot in Mysore. Another former Dean of CAVA to be featured in this book is Ramdas Adyanthaya. He paints from his experiences in life rather than from academic training.

Babu Eshwar Prasad is articulate about his art. You can read about him in his own words in the book. The article on Penpa Yaasel opens a whole new canvas of Tibetan thangkas. It also juxtaposes the two worlds of Tibetans - their life within Tibet and the other, without.

Pinki hails from the land of Madhubani and Mithila paintings. Her paintings are a mirror to her ecstasy during her creative trance. She is an artist for art’s sake and her art spills out of the canvas into her immediate physical world.

This book is a very informative one on artists in Mysore and a pleasure to read. It opens up a whole new perspective on an undisclosed world in Mysore. Every now and then Mysore, sort of, peeps out from the book and shows a stark fact about itself which the reader cannot ignore. It is as if a single thread of Mysore’s contemporary story is told through the lives of twenty-three artists. It’s like watching a TV with Picture-in-Picture facility - you are watching a channel, you switch on a small window in a corner of the monitor and take a peek at another channel as well. And when the reader finally turns the last page he yearns for more of Mysore and more artists.

One thing that the book really awakens, a regular Mysorean, to is the fact that there are so many artists enchanted with the city’s charm. They are unseen and unheard of. They remain in the background and work like shadows lurking in the dark deep recesses of the city.

In the beginning the reader may feel a little uncomfortable with the style of Naramani. He at times seems to wander off somewhere which is unconnected with the immediate context but when he returns to the original narrative the reader is surprised when that ‘stray-off’ blends so perfectly with the original context giving it a whole new meaning.

The book contains a picture of the work of each artist and at the back, there is a CD with additional pictures on it. Like this the reader can have a broad view of the work at a relatively low cost. This book, published by the Black Lotus Books Inc., Calgary, Canada, is a snapshot of arts of Mysore in the year 2006.