We visit Murugan Peeli at his residence in the city to find that the artist doesn’t let a day go by without creating something new
“You’ll find that the house is not very neat,” says artist Murugan Peeli as we sat down to speak with him. He might be right; the house certainly lacks the clinical sterility of most of the houses we see today but in its place, every wall and window is adorned with a token of Peeli’s creativity.
The way up the stairwell is lined with the work that Peeli has, over the years, become known for: sketches of heritage buildings including Koti Women’s college and the Medak Church. Walk into the living room and you see oil paintings, sketches and a metal engraving of a sketch of Tennant’s Shaft at the Kolar Gold Fields, in Peeli’s hometown.
While the artist dabbles in a variety of techniques, his speciality lies in perspective drawings. Peeli who in an engineer by education is thankful for his college lessons in perspective drawing, which along with his career as a construction engineer greatly supplement his passion of art, history and architecture to result in elegant black and white sketches of some of Hyderabad’s most beautiful buildings –Hayath Bakshi Begum’s tomb, Afzalgunj mosque, James Street police station and more.
An oil painting outside the studio depicting his journey from hometown Kolar to Hyderabad serves as an autobiographical portrait of him. Ever since he moved to the city sixteen years ago, Peeli has been visiting heritage buildings, sketching kit in hand to immortalize them in paper and ink. “WhenI go to a new place, I keep and eye out for places I can sketch,” he says. While Peeli sketched out of a personal desire and interest, his drawings caught the eye of a gentleman from Delhi and those of buildings in Hyderabad and Bangalore are being compiled into a coffee table book which will be launched in a few months. Some of the sketches that appear in the book, like the Montgomery Hotel in Park Lane or the Elgin Flour Mills in Bangalore, no longer exist.
While photographs can distract us by showing every fine detail, Peeli’s deceptively simple sketches draw attention to the grandeur of some of these structures. He is currently working on Hyderabad Public School, a project that is taking him several days and sheet of paper. “The structure is so big that I can’t draw it all at one, I’m parts of it separately and then putting them together,” he explains while showing us the preliminary sketches of the palatial structure. Drawing buildings of this scale are not new to Peeli who was commissioned by Taj Hotels to sketch their palace properties. Today, those sketches grace a corridor at The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai. But Peeli’s greatest joy seems to come from simply making works out art and spreading his knowledge on the subject. “I teach perspective drawing to architecture at JNTU,” he says and believes that an understanding of perspective is integral to artists while aesthetic sense is important to architects and engineers. Peeli also occasionally conducts workshops and takes drawing classes for students. When not doing any of this, you will find him in his studio, putting together a collage or working on an oil painting, for the simple pleasure of it.