Watch

Transforming Complexities of Life via Different Art Media

Rohini Iyengar | Updated on June 23, 2021

Visible and Invisible Monsters, Shankless pen on Paper, 2020   -  Srinath Vadapalli

US-based artist Srinath Vadapalli on the pandemic and rethinking binaries

* Owing to my fine arts education in Hyderabad and Baroda, my visual language draws from psychic-automatism of Surrealism and Expressionism via post-colonial modern Indian art

* In France, as a visiting research scholar, I began to explore innovative printmaking techniques

* The current scenario of the pandemic and the unfortunate racial violence in the US have prompted me to re-think and re-vision my perception of binaries such as good-evil, visible-invisible, black-white etc in my recent works

****

Particular life situations, circumstances and living environments have always challenged and motivated me in finding ways to overcome constraints or transform them for positive results often via artworks. I learnt this in my childhood when my father, who was a writer and a teacher, would engage us by narrating stories, about history, regional literature, world music etc., in the middle of those humid nights ridden with power outages. That is how I developed an interest in and appreciation for the visual and language arts. This was in Vizianagaram, where I was born in 1970, in Andhra Pradesh, India.

At work: Srinath Vadapalli with a graphic plate

 

The present

The current scenario of the pandemic and the unfortunate racial violence in the US have prompted me to re-think and re-vision my perception of binaries such as good-evil, visible-invisible, black-white etc. in my recent works where I have used ‘shankless pens’. These pens, different from the regular pens that have a sturdy grip, are more flexible and can be bent. While using these pens I focused on lines to defy the logic of their design.

In a series titled Power Games, black/brown and white coins of chess represent two equal parties vying to win like any other fair game. But in recent times these equations changed. Misuse of power, crimes against people of colour forced a comeback of protests by resilient groups demanding social change. In another set of works, Visible-Invisible, I have expressed anguish and agony experienced during these unprecedented times by portraying the two kinds of monsters of the pandemic: One is the invisible virus and the other is its visible counterpart, the economic crisis.

Background

Owing to my fine arts education in Hyderabad and Baroda, my visual language draws from psychic-automatism of Surrealism and Expressionism via post-colonial modern Indian art. Therefore, in my approach to art, I combine the conceptual as well as the formal aesthetics intuitively so as to engage the viewers with visual and psychological stories that strike a chord in them on a subliminal level. I have explored painting, printmaking, photography as well as new-media in my career. Also, I have taught courses in these areas at universities in India, France, Africa and the US. I have shown my works in several group and solo presentations in India and abroad right from 1997 to the present. My art works are in various permanent public collections including Artotheque in France and Kanagawa in Japan. and in many private collections in Europe, India and in the US. I am currently living and working in New Jersey, US.

Mapping my education

With my passion for art I enrolled to study at the College of Fine Arts, Hyderabad JNTU (now JNAFAU), and graduated with a major in Painting (1996). My fascination for printmaking prompted me to pursue a Master’s Degree in Printmaking (Graphics) (1998) from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, on a scholarship from Potti Sriramulu Telugu University and the Ministry of Culture’s National Scholarship. I was awarded the French Merit Scholarship for advanced studies in printmaking later that year.

Early career

Printmaking Research: In France, as a visiting research scholar I began to explore innovative printmaking techniques. I wanted to understand different print media and their relation to the creative process because printmaking as a discipline is considered technique ridden and often entails laborious methods usually unsuited for spontaneous expression. In order to counter this argument, my research focused on finding unique ways of printing using inks, impression of objects etc., to retain unhindered creative spontaneity in my paper pulp, lithography and etching prints.

Concept of ‘Reuse and up-cycle’: Also, in France I produced a series of woodcut prints, by reusing discarded local French cheese boxes, titled Do You Remember Camembert? Making paper from up-cycled materials such as rags, discarded paper or by the use of castoff natural fiber from banana, jute etc. was another passionate activity that dovetailed with my concept of producing eco-friendly art materials right from the early days of my art practice.

I continued my art practice and taught art in India and North-East Africa (2000-2003). Later, I was invited to initiate the graduate teaching programme at Ecole des Superieur Beaux Arts, France (2003). This was closely followed by another art project in Italy (2005). After a hiatus of practice and teaching in India until 2011, I moved to Ethiopia and joined as an associate professor at Addis Ababa University to teach broadcast journalism.

Photography and New Media: In years that I spent away from family with frequent travels due to my teaching in Addis Ababa, I worked on a series of digital prints titled Travelogue of a Mannequin, which portrays autobiographical allegory of views from the window of an auto-rickshaw in Ethiopia that was imported from India. During this period I also delved in photography and video installations.

In the US

After 2015, immigration to the US and attempts to stabilise life in a new environment were my main concerns. My first major participation came two years later.

WWI Centenary Show

In 2017, I worked on a set of works for this show in New Jersey, USA. I made use of actual extracts of soil collected from French and African territories where I had earlier in life travelled and lived. I believe that the soils of the territories/countries remain as solid witnesses of historic battles. I have tried to capture the trails of history; the spirit of valour and courage of the armed forces, the tears and despair of women and children in the Combat Paper (paper pulp made from US Army Combat Uniforms) cast soil impressions in the lower panel of each work.

This was followed by other exhibitions and participation before the fateful year 2020. However, during this year, in addition to teaching visual art for secondary school students, I taught a lithography course with the Manhattan Graphics Center.

Looking ahead

The year 2021 seems better than 2020, and I am looking forward to presenting my works in a group exhibition that features artists from the US and Asia titled: ‘Cross Cultural Confluences’ to be held in a leading gallery in New Jersey. Also, there are a few workshops and art projects that I will be working on in the near future.

(As told to Rohini Iyengar)

Rohini Iyengar is an art historian based in New Jersey, US. She is married to Srinath Vadapalli.

Published on June 23, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor