Artist Rohini Kumar’s teachers — Peri Subba Rao, Madhava Rao, Paidiraju and Kondapalli Seshagiri Rao — would be proud of him. As the 70-year-old artist looks back, he celebrates the role of his teachers in his life’s journey. Titled ‘Konaseema to Golconda’, the ongoing exhibition at Gallery 78, Hyderabad, tells the story of his life, beginning from Amalapuram to coming to Hyderabad to learn art. The display includes his watercolour works and also the ‘the priceless treasures’ of his teachers’ paintings.
Rohini’s four gurus (who are no more) mentored him at every stage of his life. Peri Subba Rao was his first drawing teacher; Madhava Rao recognised his innate talent and encouraged him to enrol in an art school. Seshagiri Rao was his teacher at art college and Rohini had a crash course in art at Paidiraju’s institute.
As a five-year-old, Rohini’s pastime had been to look at abstract shapes formed on mud walls of his house. His Ganesha drawings in childhood were so popular that his classmates in school would proudly display his art in their books. “My hobby was to observe the clouds, patterns on notebooks or colourful film posters. It was wonderful to find different shapes in random things,” he recalls. Though the family didn’t object, his father who was a doctor didn’t encourage him to pursue art, so Rohini felt compelled to study Ayurveda in Warangal. “I saw this as an opportunity to be in a historical city and draw sculptures in my free time.” So, while most of his friends in college relaxed on Sundays, he visited the Warangal fort. On one such visit, he had a chance encounter with Madhava rao, a trained artist and a student of Paidiraju (father of artist Rajeswara Rao). Besides teaching him the basics of outdoor sketching and introducing him to various art methods, Madhava insisted he was wasting his time in an Ayurveda college. “I packed my things and without telling anyone I went away to my home town. My doctor father had no option but to get me enrolled in an art school.”
His stint at the art school in Hyderabad was the best phase in his life. During that period, he would often visit his art teacher Seshagiri Rao even after retirement, who taught him the technique of rock painting in water colours. Now “I am ready to teach anyone who wants to learn this style,” says Rohini.
After college, Rohini had to make a tough career choice. “There was no guarantee of livelihood in art”, he realised and launched his own advertising agency. His prized possession were works given by his teachers. After retirement in 2008, he is back to the art scene and his favourite rock painting. “I am a member of Society to Save Rocks and often visit rock sites, take my own photos and paint with rocks as my subject,” he says, proudly showing a few of rocks paintings.
At his home town in Amalapuram, he spends his retired life gardening and painting.
(Konaseema To Golconda: My Journey in the Art World by Rohini Kumar is on at Gallery 78, opp Hitex, Hyderabad, till December 8)