Art of the matter :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Baadal Nanjundaswamy, the shy and reclusive artist, is sitting right in front of me. Meeting him is kind of surreal like his latest street art work, Dalis melting clock atop a Maruti 800 (painted as part of St+Art Festival supported by Asian Paints and hosted by Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology) at Hudson Circle. He is rarely known to give interviews. “I dont like when I am highlighted unnecessarily. I am not bigger than my art,” clarifies the 37-year-old artist. But people are curious to know what drives him to react to his surroundings?

There aren’t many artists who paint on potholes to draw the attention of civic authorities.

Potholes by their perpetual omnipresence in Bengaluru have come to be intrinsic to the citys landscape. And as an inhabitant of the city, he gets affected by it. “I cant just paint and demand respect for it. What is my contribution to the society, I live in?” asks Baadal in a matter-of-fact manner.

Be it the life-sized crocodile in the middle of the busy Sulthanpalya Road to highlight a pothole, painting Yama at the opening of a manhole in R.T. Nagar, creating a 3-D swimming pool in a pothole on Mission Road or his satirical piece against the setting up of Chamalapura Coal Power Station at Town Hall, Mysore, Baadal wouldn’t like to call his practice extraordinary not even when Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the prime body responsible for the civic and infrastructural issues in the city, responds to it. Baadal has painted at several sites and out of those 30 are potholes, manholes, irregular dividers are believed to have been fixed by BBMP.

"People call it protest art. It is not. When you write in your newspaper about a bad road, are you protesting? No. You write, I paint. I am working with BBMP not against them. I just draw their attention to an issue and they have always responded, " says the young artist who also like to address social issues like caste, gencer inequality and rape through his art.

Probably, it is a way of giving back to the very society, which nurtured him. Baadal frankly says that teachers and friends supported him the most. " I belonged to a very poor family. My mother was uneducated and my father had passed away long back. All my siblings had gotten married, working elsewhere so it was just me and my mother. She didnt know anything about art. She used to make cow dungs and I would sell them."

In his school in Kukkarahalli (famous for its lake) in Mysore, Baadal would be sent for panting competitions. "Teachers would get food for me. Someone will get sheets and colours for me," recalls the artist, who started to fund himself by working in a video parlour. "I earned Rs.25 per day. I was getting food and money. I was also painting signages and hoardings. Life was good but I wanted to do something."

At the behest of his friends, he joined Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts (CAVA) in Mysore. He wrote the exam and cleared it but didnt join. How was he to borne the expenditure on costly colours and other painting material. "Again my friends pooled in money to arrange for all that. It was the best decision of my life. It is the best art college." CAVA helped him expand visual vocabulary and learn about art history of the world.

Another turning point came in Baadals life when he joined O&M advertising agency after he passed out from CAVA. "The significance of aesthetics is what I learnt there but I wanted to make art so I quit after sometime. I had that option to."

That art as a career is a great option is also something Baadal wants to project through his practice. "I can choose my work today. I am commissioned work. I paint, sculpt and write poems. The scope is endless but only if you give it time."

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