If you ever come across a painting of rustic,dusky women draped in vibrant sarees, donningantique ornaments and wearing coin sized bright red vermillion doton the backdrop ofyellow turmeric smearedovertheir foreheads; then chances are you are looking at the work of Thota Vaikuntam. A self-made man born in a humble family, effortlessly portrays the lives of men and women living in a placid village of Telangana on a canvas. A casual run through his paintingsclearly indicates that women are often thesubjects of his artwork. Be it the women in traditional attire adoring a man playing flute or playing flute herself or a mother nurturing her child, his art speaks volumes about these demure yet strongwomen and much more.Nevertheless, his personal favourite is his painting depicting gurukul and its dutifulscholars discussing the world says the artist.
Growing up in a small village of Telangana called Burugupalli of Karimnagar district, he often drew inspiration from the lives and culture of his people. As a child he frequently sketched mythological characters after watching theatrical performances in his village enacted by men dressed in vibrant outfits. His biggest motivation although was his saree clad traditional mother and her kitchen says the modest artist. His art is very Indian with bright colours and vivid features which certainly peps up the mood. He believes in using primary colours and says composite colours are unnaturaland non-existent in everyday lives.The frequent presence of parakeetin his paintings reflects love and beauty in his people.
Despite getting an admission in Hyderabad’s College of Fine Arts and Architecture, he kept searching for his muse. Initially, he was confused about his career choice, but with time and effort he understood that he was meant for art. Although, he was just afirst-year student, he often went out with senior students listening to their discussions on contemporary art styles across the world and their future. Yet, he kept pondering over most artist’sinclination towardswestern art form over Indian art. While pursuing his diploma in painting and print-making from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda he chanced to get tutored by an eminent artist K. G. Subramanyan, whom he lovingly called ‘Mani da’. As a teacher he guided young Thota Vaikuntam to follow his inner calling and create his own style which no one can teach him but himself. This was when he decided to stick to his roots and paint what he feelsabout his village. That’s when he created magic with his brush stroke and the rest is history.
His early years of art-making mostly had him use charcoal, but with time he experimented with pencil drawing, partial coloration, transparent washes and later started usingacrylic and oil on canvas. His colourful paintingsbroughthim a significant recognition for itsvivacious hues. Although, his paintings have evolved over the years in size and medium, the mood of his artwork has never changed despite all the modernisation of the society including his own village. Being born in the time when televisions and computers were seldom seen in homes, he recalls how people made real conversations with each other and enjoyed the stage shows presented by brightly dressed artists. These performers inspired him to be an artist. He says he is grateful to be born in his village and that it is his Guru.However, being an artist wasn’t easy says the man himself, with a family to support and hardly any income, he had his share of ordeals in initial years, but his passion for art kept him going and be what he is today.
With a career that spans 40 years, artist Thota Vaikuntam has exhibited his work in several countries and has had more than 35 solo gallery shows and over 50 group gallery shows. He is being bestowed withnumerous accolades includinga National award, Hyderabad Arts Society award and a Bharat Bhavan Biennale Award for his work as an artist. Besides painting he had a brief stint in film-making as an art-director for multiple Telugu movies, among which a film called Daasiearned him a National award for best art direction.
Regardless ofall the achievements he isa self-effacing man with an amicable personality. His advice to young artists is to stay close to their cultural ethos and create eloquentartwork which defines them. His narrative is an inspiration to budding artists and everyone alike, that hard work always pays and staying close to roots can never let a person down.