Tubular sketches, paper-mache masks, paper cuttings and now moldings in aluminium show the art and restless spirit of Chintala Jagdish. Serish Nanisetti listens as the artist talks

A walk inside the studio of artist Chintala Jagdish at Banjara Hills is like walking into a cave that has objects in arresting colours and shapes. Jagdish sits in front of a bunch of small models shaped like pups in various poses lined up on a long table. Sleeping, sniffing, eating, walking and wickedly enough, one with a raised hind leg. “You

will not believe it this has been inspired by a coffee pot that I saw in Selfridge's in London some years ago. The coffee pot was by a Scandinavian designer. Then another time, I was with a friend in a Delhi guest house, it was raining and a dog ambled into the room and settled down. We had a challenge about drawing as many poses of the dog as it changed its poses. Both these efforts came together in this series,” says Chintala as he plays with the brown clay and lets his mind flit between the past, present and the future. Once the pups are moulded, Jagdish would have them cast in aluminium and colour them as he fancies.

Jagadish shows a feverish restlessness in his creative efforts. Be it the painted people on pipe like structures or the sanguine efflorescence that defies nature or the cheeky animal shapes and poses or the many masks, Jagadish tries to transcend the flat medium to make a statement and reach out. Jagadish's journey began into the world of art with a walk. “I remember walking the corridors of Fine Arts College at Masab Tank when the classes going on and it was drizzling outside. I liked the ambiance of the college and the dedication of the students and decided to have a go at it,” says Jagdish. “I was always at the bottom of the class so it was a surprise that a year after I joined the fine arts college, I was stopped by a friend near Charminar who told me that I had topped the class. I could not believe it,” says Jagdish.

That initial surprise soon transformed into a cocky confidence that helped Jagdish get everything he wanted. “I was told that Baroda is the place to learn art and I landed there. Denied a seat, I went and confronted the director and told him how I had been a topper in Fine Arts College and showed him my sketches. After much persuasion he offered me a seat in Graphics course, I said I came to learn Art and that's what I will pursue. He asked me to take admission in Graphics course and only if I was any good I will get to do the art course. Which I did. Later, I was zapped to discover that the director was Mani Sir; I felt foolish for confronting that great man,” says Jagdish who counts the influence of K.G. Subramanian as the inflexion point in his learning curve.

But the relationship was of a fraught master and pupil. “At the end of the year I packed my bags and announced to Mani Sir that I was quitting. He asked why and I told him how he kept pointing out mistakes in everything that I did while he didn't as much as point a finger at the work of other pupils. Then Mani Sir took me to his home and gave me a bunch of books and told me about what I was doing and how it stacks up in the world of art he made me see the creative spark in myself and taught me what is art and what is not,” says a grateful Jagdish.

Artists usually have a story of struggle and then discovery. But Jagdish came readymade for the spotlight as it began with a sold out show at the Garhi Studio that created a buzz and got the notice of the British envoy in Mumbai.

“He offered me a short stay in the UK for learning art I said I would not be able to learn anything in such a short time and next year I was offered a three-month British Council and Charles Wallace India Trust Travel Grant for study and research in the UK. I discovered the grandness of art while I met and interacted with British artists,” says Jagdish.

How did the tubular painting evolve?

“I was bored with the flat canvas and I wanted to see what happens if the canvas is rounded up and the result was interesting as well as creatively fulfilling,” says Jagdish.

Nomadic revelry

Jagdish leads a nomadic life with homes in the U.S. and India and has shows across the world that's modern, interconnected and global which he seamlessly negotiates getting an enriched experience. Jagdish's nomadic life began in Hyderabad's Nayapul Hospital and within a week his father was transferred to a remote village in Telangana and he reels of names of villages where he studied.

As he stands outside his studio and surveys the city, he points to the Falaknuma Palace and talks nostalgically about his time in the city and how it evolved. “My cut paper flower series could not have happened in India. Here we have no concept of street beauty, outdoors or anything, even the beautiful flowering trees like gulmohur are hacked away without any compunction whereas I could see in the US neatly tended lawns, beautiful flowers and gardens. That heightened sensibility is captured in the flowers,” he says. The flowers and cut paper landscapes have bright fuschia, mauve, light blue, titanium yellow and other colour combinations that are at variance with the Indian fascination for vermillion, yellow, blue and other colours. “I am here because of my mother she is old and I have no-one else in the world,” says Jagdish who says he came to whisker's breadth of getting married while he was studying in Hyderabad.

“Now I feel better without the bondage of marriage and my creative life is unfettered,” says Jagdish with a laugh.