Born in a tiny village Vemavaram in Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh in 1944, Swamy started his drawing and painting journey of over five decades, at the age of five, under the tutelage of his father, Late Sri V.Venkateswarlu, an eminent Artist and Sculptor, along with his school education.
After successfully completing three Higher Grade exams viz. Free Hand Drawing, Oil Painting and Interior Design in the field of Fine Arts, Swamy acquired a host of academic Degrees and Diplomas, in Political Science, Public Relations, Advertising and Journalism. Painting over 2500 art works in various media on different topics viz village culture and background; Colors of Life; Horses in Action; Bracing the Bull Run; Leaning Rocks; Vurved Roads; Adorable Ganeshas; Devotional Krishnas; Pulse of Nature & Environment, Swamy held 23 solo shows besides participating in a number of group shows all over India. His paintings were also shown at USA, Hong Kong, Japan and other countries.
Mr.Swamy received a number of prestigious awards over the years. He has been honoured by Smt. G.T. Tumen Bava, External Affairs Minister of Kirgia, USSR, and His Excellency Rebort Arbuthnott, Minister for Cultural Affairs, British High Commission, British Council Division and by the Andhra Association and Andhra Educational Society, New Delhi. For his outstanding contribution in the field of Fine Arts, he was honoured with the “Ugadi Puraskar -1998” by Delhi Telugu Academy. His name was also recorded in the Limca Book of Records in 1993 edition.
“Painting, is an evocative expression of the inner vision influenced by the environment. My figurative work is based on my observations of people, places involved in day- today activities around me. I create an emotional attachment not only with the viewer, but also between the people depicted in my work. I paint what I visualise and experience. Unknown frontiers of form, colour and line emerge giving the art work a unique from” says Swamy in his artist statement.
What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?
A passionate ambition to create something new from my child hood as I was born and raised in a rural environment surrounded by fields, trees, rivers, rivulets, where people worked in the fields singing ballads of rural culture. I enjoyed the natural beauty of my tiny village Vemavaram in Andhra Pradesh of Indian Sub-continent, roaming in midst of sprawling lush green fields, swimming in the rivulets, enjoying the colorful flowers that appeared to me like a rainbow. The cattle hard driven by the farmers to fields, resonance of jingle bells gave me an inspiration of writing poetry or creating paintings.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I started drawing and painting at the age of five without formal training, besides studying academics. I belong to a family of artists as my father late Sri Venkateswarlu was a reputed Artist and a Sculptor so as my brothers. My father never wanted me to become an Artist and he always aspires that I should pursue either Engineering or Medicine, knowing the difficulties of Artists those days. However, my burning interest towards art continued univocally. Thus my first one-man show of paintings was held in 1965, which was a conglomeration of charcoal drawings and water colour paintings in traditional style, sponsored by the United States Information Service. I should confess that I don’t command any style of my own as I created art works as per their theme. My own style and technique emerged as result of experimentation in the form, color and concept.
What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?
With my rural back ground, pencil drawings and pastel works of my earlier days reflected in color and form influenced by the environment. I painted what I saw and inspired me. Rustic men, women, animals, flora and fauna and their feelings of love, joys and sorrows. My compositions are with keen observation and clear vision depicting human drudgery, traditions and customs, fairs and festivals.
What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?
My passionate love and my conscious mind towards art. Of course, the environment also inspires me. In a way, my observation over the happenings in the world of art also drove me to experiment something new and create. I consistently look for a subject of interest. I have painted over 2500 art works in various media on different topics viz. village culture and background, colors of life, horses in action, bracing the bull runs, leaning rocks, curved roads, adorable Ganeshas, devotional Krishnas, pulse of nature &environment.
When I start working on a subject, collection of the background material, preparing rough sketches, planning how to complete the painting, colour selection, treatment comes to my mind. After completion of the base drawing, I apply coats of paint layer by layer bringing in lighter to dark shades. I visualise the art work in the beginning itself whether it should be a line drawing, pointillism or a tonal work. When it comes to water colour painting, a wash technique or patch work. If it is to be in Oil painting, either it should be a knife technique, patch work or any other technique suitable to the subject.
Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, may be even other artists?
My friends, family members and my wife encourages me to complete the work without any disturbance, during my painting sessions. While studying Degree at Guntur Town, my like-minded friends started a Sunday art School, called ‘Bapiraju Kala Peetham’ named after the great painter, where Sundays were hectic to discuss, draw and paint, besides our regular studies at the College. Later, when I moved to the Historic City of Hyderabad on a job assignment, I have associated with several senior artists at the Lalit Kala Academy and did several activities like - painting exhibitions, seminars on art and arranged visits to important artistic places.
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
I am working with all mediums such as water colour, oil, acrylic pastels and pencils on all surfaces such as glass, paper, board, canvas and wood panels etc. For instance, my painting series - Colours of Life, Krishna, Village have all been done in acrylics on paper and canvas. Similarly, I painted a series of large sized paintings on the theme of ‘Pandit Nehru & His Vision’ with water colour on paper. My recent paintings on adorable Ganeshas, Horses in action, bracing the Bull, Cock- fight were in oil colour on canvas. My series on Indian Independence was done with palette knife on paper board. Of course, without the right kind of brushes and material, no artist would complete his assignment. I chose the materials and brushes as per the art work demands, to finish the work quickly and qualitatively.
When it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?
Nothing particular. Most of the ideas comes to my mind while I am consciously searching for themes for the next series when one is over. Sometimes, voluntarily during night time. I catch those thoughts instantaneously and translate them in to art works. While during work, colour, composition and texture will undergo changes for more refinement.
Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?
When I grew up and settled in the Historic City of Hyderabad, my association and interaction with various artist’s fraternity has enlarged my vision to a wider canvas to take up contemporary styles besides traditional subjects. Since then, I have been working on a number of themes in both traditional and contemporary styles. Some of the distinctive features of my works are:
iii) Creating a Series of paintings on any theme rather than a single art work.
Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is it more a case of when the moment is right your work?
Every one appreciates that art is not a routine job. As it amounts to creativity from concept to completion, in which freshness of mind is greatly required and hence there is no question of certain time stipulation. Sometimes I start painting during fresh morning hours to end up in the evening. But most of my painting assignments were during night, a peaceful time and new ideas emanate. Besides a meagre income on my painting, my assignment in Public Relations with some government companies to eke lively hood for better living keeps me busy. I also published some of my literary works. I got ‘Hon Doctorate in Literature’ from the ‘World Congress of Poets’ held in Sydney, Australia for my poetry books on ‘For Hyderabad’ and ‘My Inner Vision’ besides a number of Awards from Government and non –Governmental agencies.
When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?
I plan for a series of paintings to be made on the subject. I take up two or three paintings at a time to gain economy of colours before they dry up on the palette. For instance, ‘My Colors of life’ series, I did thirty paintings and I am still in the process of doing some more in different sizes and on sub-themes. As all are aware life is journey of joys, sorrows and the like. The man and women play a dominant role and they are associated with flora & fauna, animals, pets etc. to provide a complete picture.
How has your art evolved to be where it is today?
There has been several stages of evolution of my artistic journey spanning over fifty years. The first stage may be attributed to the drawings with pencils, pastels on paper where traditional technique was employed. It was after here, my first one-man show was organised at Guntur Town way back in 1965. The second stage was with pastels and paints on oil sketching paper especially the village scenes, rural people etc. Winsor &Newton oil colours that were in small tubes, costing less than a rupee in Indian currency, were used. Slowly, I switched over to canvas with acrylic and oil colours and I thought to diffuse the figure format and I started semi-abstract, figurative style, which I am still continuing. Later, observing the art environment in vogue, I started painting modern techniques also. My ‘Road’ series were done with modern style in acrylics on canvas. As my mind is fully endowed with experimentation, I am now doing a series of paintings on the technological transformation in the rural sector, where rampant use of Cell phones, Computers, sensors and I-Pads have become part of faster communication. In fact, some of these works were also exhibited at Art Expo New York-2011.
Which of your artworks are you most proud off?
I like all my art works created by me, as these have been emanated from my mind through hard work. However, I am interested to work on the latest fad of technological transformation in the rural areas for faster communication, a topic which I have been working last five years.
Is there a fellow artist alive today that you admire? If so, why?
I admire my fellow artists and their work always, as art is not conditioned to certain equations. There may be many merits and more and more new ideas to learn from their works. At times, my fellow artists have still better ideas and techniques from where I have to learn.
If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?
Art is an inspiration from nature and environment. I get inspired by great artists such as Pablo Piccaso, Leonardo Da Vinci, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne on the international arena and artists like Raja Ravi Varma, M.F.Hussain, Ram Kumar,F N Souza etc, in the Indian context.
What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?
For any profession to thrive, three things are required. Training, Scientific study of the subject and Associations to take it further. The 21 st century art world is rapidly changing to a competitive field with innovative ideas, treatment and material. The very face of art is changing rapidly- from canvas, paper to digital, installations, street art to name a few. Hence, the younger generation of artists have to keep an eye on the latest developments, through observance of art environment and to get to know the nature of styles, new materials that are coming in and try to know the intricacies of these for incorporating them in their works. For this, they need to work hard as there are no short cuts for growth to become a professional artist. They should also study the latest techniques that their fellow artists are adopting and try to use them on a different form of their own.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?
The younger artists without corrupting their minds for instantaneous fame, greatness and immediate monetary benefits and success, should get to know all the intricacies of drawing and painting through continuous practice, about colour techniques and composition of images, texture etc. The only initiative to stand out best among others is nothing but the interest and hard work they should continually think off. They should interact with senior artists and observe how they are treating various subjects and take their advice. They should also take opinion on their finished art works. By visiting art exhibitions in their vicinity, they get first-hand information on various techniques and styles and also on display methods, what the others are adopting.
Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is their another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?
As I have already mentioned earlier, I have no distinctive style of my own I adopt for completion of paintings, I evolve a particular style for each painting depending upon their environment. During this process perhaps if I am drawn towards any other style through color or composition is foreseen, I definitely admire the merits.
We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?
At times even when I start some of my paintings, they will be in a fluid stage for months together and many times and I even change their composition and color combinations as my mind goes. This exercise is to finish the painting satisfactorily.
Many people see artists as storytellers or advocates for a cause, do you believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to shine a light on a particular subject / theme, or do you create purely for the sake of expression your creative nature?
There has always been a discussion among various forums that art has the purpose of social reformation or it has a decorative value. Some feel that artists should be the harbingers of the society in bringing out and solving various issues faced by it. But others feel that art has more of decorative value and hence used for investment purposes. In this context, the artists may not be story tellers or advocates neither to take up the social responsibilities nor in solving the issues faced by the Society.
What are you working on at the moment?
In the present day scenario, use of electronic communication technologies for faster communication such as Internet, Cell Phones, I-Pods, Sensors, Computers etc., are pervading the urban and rural areas taking the Universe, a Global Village. With the proliferation of Information Technology and its influence on the lives of people, presently I am doing a series of paintings on the subject capturing the technological transformation in the rural sector. I have started doing these series from 2010 and I did around 15 paintings so far while some are in sketching stage. Some of these have been exhibited in the Art Expo New York-2011 also. As this is a serious subject, I have been doing paintings on other subjects in between also.
Have you ever been part of an artistic group / movement? How did your work benefit from that experience?
I am not particularly working with any group of artists except associating myself with artists nearby. In 70s, I have been working with senior artists on different topics. Later, the group was defunct and now they formed ‘Hyderabad Art Society’ which organizes Seminars, art camps and exhibitions.
When is your next exhibition? Is it a solo or group exhibition? Could you tell us a little about the exhibition, when and where it is?
I have showed my paintings in all Indian Metropolitan cities for over four decades besides participating in a number of group shows. As I observe the environment has changed from visiting the exhibitions to watching over electronic media, so as in fine arts. Hence, I am a bit slow in participating in exhibitions or organizing solo shows. However, I may plan one or two in the near future with my recent paintings. I am more concentrating on electronic media like posting my art works on websites, social media platforms like Face book, Instagram, Linkedin, Google , Twitter etc. where the reach is more , and larger number of viewers can be attracted through the length and breadth of the world.