Deciphering 'art code'
Hyderabad-based artist Dr Nirmala Biluka recently showcased her work in a group show titled ‘Art Code’ in Europe.
Hyderabad-based artist Dr Nirmala Biluka recently showcased her work in a group show titled 'Art Code' in Europe. As a child, her interest in art was inculcated due to her father, who himself used to doodle and later practised photography through-out his life.
Nirmala says, "Since school, I would participate in art competitions and visit exhibitions. My father is friends with several well-known artists like T Vaikuntam, Surya Prakash, Dakoji Devraj amongst others whom I would observe as they worked relentlessly in their studios.
Since adulthood, I had pretty much designed my career to become a contemporary artist. So, while most of my friends chose the standard studies like MBBS and Engineering or computer sciences, I applied for an art school.
I finished the Bachelor of Arts programme from JNTU, Hyderabad and later went to MS University, Baroda for Master of Fine Arts," she shares.
"However, in 2012, I returned to my hometown Hyderabad, as I now wanted to pursue further studies. Subsequently, I completed a PhD in 'Film and Visual Culture Studies' from EFL University. My interest in research and teaching has led me into academics," Nirmala adds.
'Art Code' a group show in Europe as part of an art residency programme held in Lithuania, Europe. It was conceived by the organisation called 'Sanskritik Mandala' or the Circle of Creation.
This was the sixth edition and it is conducted every year where artists have to apply well in advance with their portfolio of artworks and a proposal of what they would like to do there if given a chance.
It is an India-Lithuania cultural exchange programme while Indian artists visit first and later Lithuanian artist come to Assam where the second phase of art residency and show is conducted by an NGO called Parivartan Assam.
Nirmala says, "I came across the call for applications online and I applied as I had seen a few friends from Baroda had participated in the previous programmes.
From India, there was another artist, Navjot Sohal from Baroda. In the show, there were other Indian artists Likhita Mahajan and Alak Pathak who are now residing in Vilnius and two Lithuanian artists, Ausra Kleizaite and Jovita Ambrazaityte participated in the show."
About her work she says, "I showed some of my earlier watercolours works from the 'Made in India' series and two recent ones which I did after staying there, taking inspiration from the cultural symbols and architecture in the beautiful city of Vilnius.
We were staying at Uzipis Art Incubator, which offers art residencies for about 20 artists and is situated on the bank of the river Vilnia in the Old town. The Old town is a stunning locality with beautiful churches and monumental buildings.
The architecture and marketplaces were an inspiration, where the first thing I bought was a wooden fridge magnet of the St Anne Cathedral. I made a paper cutting similarly of the churches and Russian dolls found in plenty and used them in my painting."
Her work tittle 'Confluence' is her carry forward work. "I kind of mixed the image of a woman which you see generally in my paintings and juxtaposed it with the paper cuttings of Mother Mary and Renuka Yellamma to represent a woman in different forms," she adds.
As part of the residency, they also organised Nirmala's lectures first at the University of Vilnius and next at Art Academy of Tallinn in Estonia.
"At both places, I spoke about why modern Indian art and regional arts of south India turn to time and again towards folk traditions for inspiration and to comprehend how the discourse of 'traditional vs modern' manifests in recognising and addressing issues of identity in 'Contemporary Indian Art'," she explains.
"We had a funny at the same time anxious incident that I will never forget. One night my friend and I were cooking some Indian food late at night and the smoke alarm started buzzing. After several attempts also we could not stop it.
After a lot of effort, we called the fire engine and even they could not do much as the alarm needed an electronic password to be stopped and left us. We fell asleep somehow early in the morning and it was put off only after the owner arrived much later," Nirmala recalls.
This was her first trip to Europe, and she loved every moment of it. She says, "Although Lithuania is not a popular country like France or Germany it has its own historic and cultural legacy.
What was interesting to find was that Sanskrit and Lithuanian languages are the world's oldest and share a lot of similarities.
Many scholars believe they belong to the same language group and origin. Lithuanians are quite warm and friendly, and I was surprised that most of them knew a lot about Indian culture, food and especially Bollywood and Hindi TV serials."