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Bringing batik alive on canvas

Bringing batik alive on canvas
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With a mélange of colours and ornamental portraits, Y Balaiah brings alive Telangana through an art form that few practise - batik TP Venu ...

With a mélange of colours and ornamental portraits, Y Balaiah brings alive Telangana through an art form that few practise - batik TP Venu Yasala Balaiah, alias Batik Balaiah has been at it for over five decades, depicting Telangana culture on canvas that is. While his contemporaries moved away from traditional paintings, Balaiah stuck to his first love Batik, a process of image making by dying of cloth and letting colours seep between wax lines and patches. An unsung hero of his genre of paintings, the retired school teacher managed time between academics and the paint brush. While his contemporaries such as T Vaikuntam and Laxma Goud gained name and fame, Balaiah was content in his rural backdrop relentlessly working from Siddipet.
A true son of the soil he loves the hinterland its sounds, culture and tradition. Telangana women have been portrayed beautifully in his works. The bright red vermilion on their foreheads, traditional jewellery, fully rounded women in rural settings, sitting beside huts, in paddy fields or at a bazaar enliven the canvas. A firm believer in the dictum 'art for people' as against 'art for art's sake', Balaiah has been engaged in bringing alive life in rural Telangana for decades. His tryst with Telangana started many moons ago when as a class IX student he sent line drawings to Telugu magazines. For a man who had his first exhibition in 1960 at the Hyderabad Art Society, he is not tired at all. At 74 the energy and enthusiasm with which he works is extraordinary. His works are in the collection in Salar Jung Museum and Los Angeles Museum apart from different places in India. Did he ever try to experiment with other themes? "I did. But the pull of my native land was ever so strong," says Batik Balaiah. He learnt the techniques of Batik from another great artist of the region, Kapu Rajaiah. He says, "There are very few artists who stick with Batik. It is time consuming and there is a lot of hard work."
He has trained hundreds of people in the art of Batik, but few took it up. Today his son Prakash has learnt the art and is taking it forward, not that Balaiah has hung his boots. The veteran is planning another exhibition soon. A man who stuck to his roots is today content as his perseverance has paid off as he mastered the technique of creating crack like textures of the Batik in paintings. And as far as fans are concerned, he has had thousands but the ultimate salutation was paid by none other than the late M F Husain at an exhibition in Mumbai when he said that among the various paintings in the gallery, Balaiah's paintings stood out.
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