Pandemic paints a grim picture for artists in Telangana

Struggling to make ends meet in the aftermath of COVID, artists stay resilient and continue to be creatives

August 18, 2020 02:59 pm | Updated August 19, 2020 03:11 pm IST - Hyderabad

The pandemic has hit everyone and artists are no exception; only the response of the community to the situation certainly holds out hope for everyone. Faced with incredible stress due to lack of patronage and avenues to showcase their works, artists found themselves in severe financial distress. While some have taken recourse to technology to keep their creativity flowing, others are staying motivated by documenting their current situation.

With work being scanty, a few artists are struggling to even arrange for paints and canvas. Hyderabad Art Society (HAS) is soliciting donations of any kind to help artists. Ramana Reddy, president of Hyderabad Art Society says, “Most artists have chosen to go back to their homes to save expenses in the city. Some artists who supplemented their earnings in pre-COVID times by taking tuitions and art classes in schools are the most affected. HAS is trying to collect funds to at least help them buy the material needed to paint.”

It is not just the artists who are trying to establish a name who are struggling. Established artist Thota Laxminarayana says until mid-June, he was worried about his finances. “Just when I was beginning to worry, a few suspended assignments (with interior designers) were revived. That gave me a boost and also made me paint positive canvases that would light up one’s living space,” he recalls.

Back to root

With the pandemic not showing signs of weakening any time soon, artist couple Sukka Karuna and Sunder decided to return to their native village in Wanaparthy, 180 kilometres from Hyderabad. Sukka Karuna shares, “Surviving in the city and paying rent became difficult for us. We came back to the village in May and though we are in financially strained, we appreciate what we have here. After long, we worked in the fields and did farming, sowing pigeon peas (tuvar dal). Our daughter Sahasra too got initiated into farming and she joins us in the fields after her online classes. Sunder is from the fishing community, so he goes fishing once a week. We are able to lead this self-sufficient life because of my father-in-law. By many standards, we are leading a luxurious life here. Work-wise, it doesn’t look too promising. My show in the USA got cancelled and we haven't got any fresh assignments. It is a tough time but a learning process. In the meantime, Sunder has painted about his feeling of returning to the roots.”

Venkat Ramulu Jogu is staying at Vikarabad with his parents and farming. Venkat says “I shut my studio at Dundigal and came to my village so that I don't have to worry about having to buy rations. I am helping my father in the fields and that is letting me explore various artistic thoughts. I am an abstract artist and the closeness with nature is doing me good.”

Positive outcomes

Trying to keep artists and creative people busy with webinars is one way to keep them motivated, says Atiya Amjad, founder-curator of Daira Centre for Arts and Culture. Atiya, however, adds “That doesn’t pay their bills though. It is a good thing that most of these artists who prefer to stay hidden behind their canvases are coming out and speaking at webinars, expressing their thoughts and reaching out to people. I feel this communication will help them be more creative.”

Looking at the lockdown in a very positive way is artist, curator and gallery owner Avani Rao Gandra of IconArt gallery. Averse to online exhibitions, she says, “If one has to visit an online art show, they might as well look at an online catalogue or visit the artist’s Facebook page. Artists are out of work; there is no denying that fact. However, I see them utilising this time to revisit their work, the themes and subjects they choose. Earlier, in a hurry to sell and do shows, they had somewhere comprised their artistic approach. Art is a lot about the expression of thoughts and emotions. The lockdown is giving them enough time to work on their ideas. As an artist, I have seen some of my best works during this lockdown. The same goes with works of some of the artists I work regularly with. I have an ongoing real-time show called ‘COVID Expressions’ at my gallery, with some of the best works I have seen.”

Artist Tirumala Tirupati sees the hardship around him as his muse. He says this pandemic is the greatest hardship mankind has seen which needs to be documented for the future. He says, “I have not sold any work. However, I chose to be busy and paint my emotions.”

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