Return of the Native
Chicago-based Andhra Pradesh artist Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao finds his way back to India to showcase his work at Dhoomimal Art Gallery in New Delhi. ...
Chicago-based Andhra Pradesh artist Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao finds his way back to India to showcase his work at Dhoomimal Art Gallery in New Delhi. what caught Kalam's fancy was SV Rama Rao's painting on River Krishna, set in a riot of reds, greens, yellows and blues. This was the painting that earned him fame in the West. Abdul Kalam went on to announce, "I am going to publish SV Rama Rao's painting on the cover of my forthcoming book" Venkat Parsa Former President APJ Abdul Kalam took everyone by surprise, when he agreed to inaugurate the painting exhibition of Andhra Pradesh artist, Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao, at the prestigious Dhoomimal Art Gallery in the Capital on April 22. It coincided with the Earth Day and what caught Kalam's fancy was SV Rama Rao's painting on River Krishna, set in a riot of reds, greens, yellows and blues. This was the painting that earned him fame in the West. Abdul Kalam went on to announce, "I am going to publish SV Rama Rao's painting on the cover of my forthcoming book." After winning global acclaim, the Chicago-based Indian artist SV Rama Rao triumphantly returned to stage his exhibition showcasing his works in the Capital. In fact, SV Rama Rao's contact with Kalam took place during the latter's tenure as President in 2002, when he spent 45 minutes talking to him, while taking a long walk in the Mughal Gardens of Rashtrapati Bhavan. In 2003, in his address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament in 2003, Kalam singled out SV Rama Rao for a special mention. Former Illustrated Weekly of India Editor AS Raman once said, "I first saw Rama Rao's work in 1967 in London. It was a drawing reproduced in the highbrow London Magazine. Alan Ross, the Editor, covering the caption with his handkerchief, asked me to identify the artist. My response was immediate: Picasso. 'No. Wrong,' said Ross. 'He is from your country, Rama Rao'." Born in Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh in 1936, SV Rama Rao did his graduation with BA (Economics) from Andhra University. Besides, he took exam in higher course of drawing, painting, design and geometrical drawing. Later he joined a six-year course in art at the Madras School of Arts and Crafts, where he made history, as he was directly given admission into the third year. After completing the course, SV Rama Rao moved to Britain on Commonwealth Scholarship that he was offered at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London. Rama Rao was determined to be an artist from the time he was 13. His teacher in Gudivada, K Venugopal Rao inspired him to take to art as a way of life, instead of pursuing a career in any other profession. It was the reputed progressive art director Madhavapeddi Gokhale who convinced his father, a woodcarver-turned-builder, that his son had the talent for art and paved the way for his admission in the Madras School of Arts and Crafts, Chennai. Equally at home with European and the rich contrasts of primary colours of India's miniature tradition, Rama Rao has developed his colour-based non-figurative art. His flowing forms allow him to evolve harmonies even of contrasting and clashing colours without repelling the eye. Rama Rao was the first Indian to receive training under the scholarship scheme meant for artists from the Commonwealth countries. That is when, in 1962, he was struck by the abstract expressionist movement, which is three-dimensional art. Rooted in the Indian tradition of Rajput, Mughal and Jain art, which is essentially two-dimensional, SV Rama Rao went on to create an unique style in the abstract school of Western painting, taking the main approaches of the two-dimensional aspect and lyrical grace from the Indian art. As a natural consequence, Rama Rao shifted from figurative to abstract and succeeded in emerging as an important exponent of contemporary artistic tradition. SV Rama Rao's evolution as an abstract expressionist came through a sustained struggle. He achieved it with his study of comparative religion and philosophy and incessant experimentation with colours and hues and brushes and techniques. Besides being an accomplished artist, Rama Rao is also a poet, who writes both in English and Telugu. As a student of art at University of London, he was honoured by the Royal Academy in London with his one-man show during the second Commonwealth Biennial at London. The show brought him UK's most prestigious Lord Croft Award and the title of the Most Outstanding Artist of the Commonwealth. Moreover, his lithographs were bought by the eminent art historian Sir Herbert Read, the Tate Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. His works were exhibited along the side of paintings of Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Georges Bracque, Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Jackson Pollock. He won recognition as an eminent art teacher in the United States. He was honoured with Padma Shri by the then President KR Narayanan in 2001. Among the several honours he received are his inclusion in the 1973 awards volume of Outstanding Educators of America, "Your nomination parks you as a truly exceptional member of the academic community, devoted to the highest principles of education," a commemoration of his selection informed him. His paintings, lithographs and sketches are in the collection of Museum of Modern Art, New York; Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University, Boston; Seattle Museum, University of Cincinnati, Ohio; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Nuffield Foundation, London; National Museum, Wellington, New Zealand; National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Madras Museum, Chennai and Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad, besides many private collections across the world.
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