A thorough gentleman & restless artist!
I have been fortunate to have had a wonderful career in art. To me, art is life – a higher calling. I cannot imagine my life without art. This is who I am: all of my being, every breath I take, every nuance of my life - from a book, Abstract Reality, The Art of Surya Prakash.
A simple studio tucked away in LV Prasad Eye Hospital that kept him away from the bustle but with a beautiful view of the city where he grew to be an international artist of repute was where Surya Prakash spent most of the mornings, meet his visitors. Be it a young artist, a trainee reporter, an eminent painter or an illustrious collector, he would greet them with the same warmth and a welcoming smile.
One of the first-generation artists of the modern era, his artistic journey began when he came to Hyderabad from a small town called Madhira in Khammam. He enrolled for Diploma in Painting at what was then known of College of Arts, a five-year course ended with Surya specialising in Portrait, which he hardly dabbled in later in his life. He continued staying in the city along with his friends Laxma and Devraj and interacted with several others whom he met in the course of time, as he went through the process of discovering, and establishing himself as an artist to reckon with in the world of art. He had his share of struggle while working from a garage, trying to do batik paintings in order to earn money, doing the rounds of galleries in New Delhi and Mumbai to be able to do shows with many evenings spent in Irani cafes, and hanging out with artists and collectors at the garage studio over cups of chai. He remembered the phase quite fondly and called it necessary curve for an artist.
One time he regaled the readers of The Hans India with the stories of his youth when they would travel in rickshaws, how he waited for Laxma and Devraj, his fellow artists, along with whom he shared the garage, to leave on some work, to be able to peacefully work on his paintings, how they together exhibited their works. The English movies in Plaza and Dreamland, the late-night pan sojourns…It was also the time when Surya won a gold medal from Hyderabad Art Society and a National Award for one of his paintings.
Lalita Kala Academy in Hyderabad was one of the important institutions that promoted art and with the help of a scholarship from the academy, he went to work with distinguished artist Ram Kumar, an important phase that would bring him closer to his distinctive style. His paintings gradually deviated towards abstract in nature, dead, and fallen leaves reminiscent of the French post-impressionist style. During an interview with senior journalist Radhika Rajamani a few years ago, he shared his inspiration from Monet and post-impressionist artist Cezanne. "I saw nature through Cezanne. I got interested when I learnt to landscape and observed the works of French impressionists. It was the painting of Monet with a pond that inspired me. I made a small pond and the series 'Pool of Life' continued for more than 10-12 years." He slowly changed from oil to acrylic and his large canvases started filling the drawing rooms of art lovers from across the world.
During the interview, he had said, "Like most people in other professions I have also faced a tough life. You can't climb the ladder fast. You have to build your steps one at a time. The struggle helps you to understand life."
And this worldly-wise understanding of art and the world around him had kept it in good stead. He steered away from controversy, remained friendly with the entire fraternity, and helped everyone who came his way find their moorings in the field of art, through a piece of advice, or introduction to people who matter. He was one of the first people to open a gallery in Hyderabad – Surya Gallery that hosted many art talks and shows, aimed at opening up the city of Nizams to the world of modern art. He was associated with CCMB and during the time was part of the team that hosted several art initiatives along with Late PM Bhargava including the mural at the entrance done by MF Husain. During his time with LV Prasad, he was responsible for some of the best art collection at the hospital.
A thorough gentleman, a restless artist behind the composed exterior, a father-figure to art fraternity, Surya Prakash was never an artist who rested on his laurels. One of his latest collection of works from his visit to Italy, the images of Venice, the floating boats, the interplay of shadows on the waters marking the change in his approach was also a promise of more in the offing, had he lived. His recent retrospective organised by Mumbai-based Manvinder Dawer also marked the release of his book, a feat that was scheduled to repeat at Jehangir Art Gallery in his presence. Surya is no longer with us. A man, who became an almost permanent figure in the artistic landscape of the city has chosen to leave this world leaving behind a massive body of art, and a whole lot of memories in the hearts of people whose lives he touched in some way or other.