A name, Antyakula Paidiraju is one of the important milestones in the list of Telugu artists who contributed to the Modern Art concepts. He was born on 14th November 1991 at Bobbili of Srikakulam District and lived for 80 years. On 14th of November 2018 that completes 100 years and this essay is to remember his life and passion for arts.
He loved arts right from his childhood and could not continue his studies after SSLC. He joined Madras School of Arts and Crafts in 1940 and completed 6 years of study of arts in 4 years itself with distinction by 1944. It was a regular story that he participated in regular exhibitions and was appreciated by many during his college times too. Andhra Maha Sabha Madras conducted an exhibition and he received Gold Medal for his painting in 1941. After completing his studies at Madras he wanted to tour around important art institutions of India like Santiniketan and meet many artists and understand their works. He painted about a heartbreaking situation of Srikakulam drought conditions in 1944. Probably he saw Chittoprosad and Zainul Abedin’ paintings and drawings on Bengal disastrous Femine when he visited Santiniketan and Bengal. Certainly his Bengal tour had influenced his arts and thinking.
That was the time India was effectively agitating for Quit India movements. Every region every field was chipping their bit to join the movement. Artists expressed their resistance against British through their medium of arts. China was another country resisting British. Bengali artists amalgamated the Chinese Calligraphic ink methods and Indian subjects and declared their friendship with China, another enemy of British. Paidiraju was influenced by these thoughts. One of his paintings “After the Bath” is not only painted in those broad strokes of ink Paidiraju also signed vertically like Chinese style on the top of the painting. He was the student of Deviprasad Roy Choudhary when he was studying at Madras. Choudhary was a sculptor. Paidiraju too made significant sculptures. His sculptures have the language of Choudhary but paintings acquired a language of their own. It is because of the mixed influence, adaptations and thoughts of Madras school education and his Bengal tour.
British had declared their supremacy on every field and also put their hand on fine arts. They announced that the arts of India are crafts but not the arts of genius. They wanted to teach us their methods and techniques of arts and established British arts schools. First of it’s kind was Madras School of Arts and Crafts and later Calcutta and so on. To resist their policy, Rabindranath Tagore has established Santiniketan in 1920 for a ‘Gurukul’ method of Indigenous teaching.
One of the Modern principles of Humanity is individual identity. British insisted on Modernism. Indians declared that their identity is in their Indigenous Culture and lifestyles but not in the methods of imposition by British. Bengal artists expressed their life, culture and surroundings in their arts and Madras believed in their Dravida Culture to express. Paidiraju had seen both and realized that he had to express his own Telugu region’s Culture. He lived in Bobbili, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam regions and started expressing in his paintings about the living styles and Culture and traditions of that region.
On the face value one may think he is painting in the folk styles but if we observe carefully we realize that they are different. Like Mughal and Rajasthani kind of Royal court arts South India too had the court art like Vijayanagara styles. Similarly smaller courts like Bobbili too patronized arts. 18th C. Rajamahendravaram [Rajuhmundry] Ramayana paintings are the proof of that. He adapted those traditional/Classical court art styles and Telugu people’s living styles and traditions as subjects. It is something like this, if classical music is taken for the cinema songs, that music is modified for the mass aesthetic appreciation. That is what he too did. One of his paintings “Perantam” ladies get-to-gather has Vijayanagara art language and Telugu life style as a subject. This way he was supporting the Anti British movements and also that remained his signature style. The titles of his paintings confirm the same, ‘Bhagnaveean’, ‘Tilakam’[ lady putting Tilak on her forehead], ‘Naavik’, ‘Aalochan’, ‘Matrumurti’, ‘Winnowing the paddy’, etc. Once he said in a news paper interview that he is waiting for the arts that should have Telugu Culture and Indian styles. He expressed his fear that British had sowed the seeds of Modernism. “Their roots are deep now, how much we can come out of the effect of British?”
He also worked in Theatre, sang songs in cinema, wrote poetry. One of his poetry titled is ‘Akshara Silpaalu’. His expression is in visuals probably he saw letters also as ‘Silp’, sculpture. He advised that one has to seek expertise in the same what is near to their heart and other arts would help their core expression of language. He taught the same to his students and many became good art teachers. He expressed a wish that Government should take interest to establish art schools, art galleries and develop professional art and crafts.
He established an art school in Vijayanagaram in 1949 and taught many young students about art. After the education Pagallu rulers and when he started art school at Vijayanagaram, then ruler P.V.Raju had supported him. When Andhra University established Fine Arts College, he was appointed for teaching art at that institute. He was the Vice President of Andhra Lalitkala Akademi, established Chitrakala Parishat in 1965 and encouraged young artists. He painted more than 5000 paintings. The painting ‘Bride’ has many versions and modifications and postures around 100 paintings. Mother and child too is painted in different postures and expressions. His other paintings courtyard games of girls ‘Chemmachekka’ are beautiful paintings. Not only nationally, internationally also his paintings were exhibited in Afghanistan, Russia, Germany and many places. His works are in the collection of many important institutions and museums. He was a son of a craftsman, understood the modern concepts, supported the ‘Swadeshi Movement’, painted like our lullabies, and gained fame. Knowledge gained both the ways whether it is for British or for Indians.
[This is a broad translation of my original article in Telugu published in Sopathi, Navatelangana news paper as an essay article on 11th November 2018]