H K Dwarakanath is an artist, designer, director and actor in Rangayana since 1989. In this free-wheeling interview, he speaks about his works and life.
Tell us more about your background. How did all this start?
I studied in a village until high school and moved to Mysuru to finish my schooling as well as my PU. I enrolled myself in Maharaja College. But those were times when I did not know what studying meant in the actual sense. My interests had moved towards the fine arts already and I was unaware there were specific institutions that taught fine arts as individual subjects. After coming to Mysuru, I came to know the existence of such schools. In those days, the palace court painters practised along with some aspiring students and that’s how many interested youth learnt the basic art of painting. I joined CAVA shortly after where I learnt how to paint and sculpt and also learnt craft work. All those years leading up to CAVA everything I learnt was in the traditional sense, just painting. Questions weren’t answered; the hows and whys of painting remained obscure to me. The main criteria was to make the painting look pretty. After joining CAVA we slowly moved towards painting fishermen, snake charmers, cobblers and carpenters. The idea of painting landscape was adopted from the British who couldn’t photograph the picturesque scenery around their homes. To assist them painters from different parts of India were hired and we gradually changed our style from their influence.
How do you relate between colors and emotions?
To name colors the way they are named now (red, green, yellow etc), it shows a definition of the meaning that we associate with it. Greenery means lush pastures and blue always indicates the sky and the water, but in this age green can also mean a vial of poison and scientifically, water is not blue and neither is the sky. Colors or ideas do not have a defined meaning and they change with people because it is entirely subjective in nature. To have just one meaning that applies to everybody equally is a difficult task. Something that can’t be described with words will limit the purpose of art.
Why art? Why theatre? What is the difference between the two?
Theatre and art are one and the same. But theatre without my knowledge brought me under its wings. During college when I craved for a sense of identity, I felt a crisis because I was from a village and the level of sophistication in a city made me feel inferior. The feeling needed to be expressed, so I started mime, to do it would mean that people would look at me and that thought struck me.
How does every piece of art have some deeper and philosophical meaning or can it just be what it appears to be?– (Ex: “Screamer”, “Fruit Bowl”)
Every painting and its representation is very subjective. A scream is a scream for everyone and the painting itself is trying to depict that universal feeling. Still life paintings on the other hand have no particular way of being looked at. A bowl of fruit might look like an ornament to some but to a hungry person might look appetizing and can also make him sad. Culturally for us Indians fruits imply trees whereas for western countries bowls made sense because they based their eating on the season. There are certain reasons for photographs and paintings but the meaning attached to each one is based entirely on the viewer’s opinion.
Do you have a favorite artist and art piece? Why?
My choices are always changing. Emotions are what drive me towards a painting. But my two favorite artists are Vincent Van Gogh and Picasso. Everything experiences change and should not be constant. That appeals to me in any painting and in nature as well. Picasso’s pictures gave a new language to art. He saw art like it should be in an idealistic manner. Van Gogh painted moments as they were. Although both are great painters, the contrast in their work is very admirable.
From a time when art was just paintings like “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” to a period of sudden creative surges resulting in mass appreciation of spray paints and wall art, (like it is today), what do you think propels these revolutions?
Paintings of those times are much more elaborate than they are today. There is a certain universal feeling, a relatable situation. The last supper will always have an upper hand over the Mona Lisa because it is so relatable. When you try to understand something completely, misunderstandings will slowly start creeping in. experiences must guide interpretations and paintings.
What according to you is an artist’s role in society?
It is a mistake to assume one has an important role to play; everyone is equal. Not just an artist but each and every individual is a character in society. Each character is based on his or her own experience and the expression of these experiences define society. Man is not the character, his life and the feelings are what compromise a man. He isn’t individual; what he does is not acting but it is him playing a role in life to be what he is in society.
Is it possible to create art within a classroom space bound by rules and specifications?
No it is not possible. For learning, there should be no boundaries and it is forever changing. Even the teacher is an individual who is constantly learning. Classroom is then just a sharing space for everybody. What you lack in a classroom you gain at home and what you cannot say at home you share in that space which you call class.
How do you consider space and time? What is the connection between the artist and the actor?
Both the artist and the actor are one and the same. They both are the present. By being present he can make himself in society. Influence of an actor on designs –because the painter the actor and the audience are one and the same people there is a receiving and giving capacity. The three together make up art as we know it.
What is your take on contemporary art?
Art cannot be distinguished into different time periods because there is no beginning and no end. The word contemporary encompasses the present past as well as future. One’s future depends on what one is now. Because we haven’t started art as a process we do not have the right or the ability to end it.
Describe to us a real life situation that motivated you.
Life itself is an illusion. Personally I feel way older than I am. I am continuation of what used to be. In front of me is the world and backing me are my father’s memories and my grandfather and great grandfather’s values and tastes. All this makes me a timeless being.
What is design? What inspires you to create the artistic masterpieces for theatre and actors?
Design is just a framework within which we limit our work. But these designs always existed. It has no relationship with art. It is just a concept which cannot be accepted or denied. The experience that a design gives is what should drive human life.
Best moments are being a part of theatre and art itself. Reacting and composing starting from the most basic cooking to bringing to life on stage a character apart from you or to put forth yourself through art is design. When you feel that a space is yours that’s where you’re the most comfortable and one cannot choose favorites.
– Shalmalee Hiremath