A gaudy ‘baby’ wearing mismatched accessories is being toasted by admirers. Elsewhere, fishnet stockings, traditional anklets and pink heels adorn rather bulky legs. These and many other paintings form the recent works “Baby-ji” of Hyderabad- based A. Rajeswara Rao. On display at New Delhi’s Gallery Espace, the works are an extension of the satirical humour portrayed brilliantly by Rao, where ‘baby’ is the new way of addressing wives in the urban setting. And hence the name of the show, “Baby-ji”.
Rao’s work reflects the common man’s obsession with ‘high society’. Instead of criticising it, he captures the nuances behind the urbane desires. “The need for identity change, the need of the unnecessary, the compulsive metamorphosis, resulting in new aesthetics fascinate me, turning the frightening consumerism into an amusement rather than a negativity to reckon with,” he says.
Rao claims to be one of the very few artists in India and the only artist in Hyderabad to work with the medium of acrylic on acrylic sheet, a skill he has been practising for the past 18 years. His intelligent use of white paper and the technique of the removal of paint lend an almost physical depth to the paintings.
His witty take on rich villagers imitating screen heroes is evident in the works like ‘James Bond 777 (local)’. Even wittier are the titles like ‘My New Engagement Ring’ and ‘Veerappan in the City’. While the former has a young girl showing off a bright ring from her second lover, the latter shows the dramatic fall of the dacoit in a concrete jungle. The influence of cinema can be seen in the techno-colour treatment of the paintings to portray urban chaos. Larger than life figures are caricatured, wearing trendy goggles and loud, ill-fitting, western clothes. Rao’s work can be seen as a comment on the changing societal values due to the intrusion of the media in our daily life.
Humour in paintings is not often depicted by artists. Rao claims that it has been “very well- received” by art lovers.
Rao’s works are on display at Gallery Espace till April 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (except Sundays).NEHA DHOLE