BANGALORE: A week ago, disturbed by an unattended manhole in the middle of the road in RT Nagar, an artist turned it into his canvas and went on to paint the face of the Hindu god of death 'Yamaraj', waiting to devour unwary motorists on the road. The artist was Badal Nanjundaswamy, and the main objective of this art installation was to draw the attention of the municipal authorities to fix the issue. So how did the authorities respond to this? “The manhole was closed the very next day,” he grins.
This is not the first time he has done this and this won't be his last. Recalling a similar incident, he says, “During Dussehra last year, in Mysore, the roads were clogged with water because of which the traffic couldn't move. The authorities did nothing about it. So I took to the road and next to a puddle I painted ‘Come and Swim’. The next morning, the roads were levelled.”
Badal, who is originally from Mysore, has used the medium of art to silently protest against the government apathy. He believes in peaceful defiance, as opposed to violent street protests, and he will continue to use art to speak his mind. Over the years, he has been involved in various causes. Back in 2007, when the Kumaraswamy government had decided to set up a coal power station at a village called Chamalapura, around 20 Kms from Mysore city, Badal was the first to condemn this move as it would have adverse environmental repercussions.
Two years later, when the protests against the Bhopal Gas Tragedy broke out in Bangalore near K R Circle, Badal along with a few students of the Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts expressed his anger in his own way- through art.
In yet another case, he used a painting to highlight the plight of the farmers near Nanjangud, where over 250 families were dislodged to make way for the establishment of a golf course.
But doesn’t he fear a government backlash because of his political and environmental activism? “When I see something wrong, I cannot look the other way and pretend it doesn’t bother me. I have to act upon it,” he says, “As an artist, I have a right to use my creative expression to voice my opinion.”
And where his artworks are not based on a social theme, he has tried to chronicle his own experiences. His first solo exhibition, titled Colours and Beyond depicted his experiences and interactions during his travel between Mysore and Bangalore. Another set of paintings titled Machine Manushya, depicted a man’s dependence on machines. “We have become so dependent on machines that we cannot live without them. We are constantly thinking about cars, houses, technology to help us lead our lives,” he says about the paintings.
A gold-medalist from the Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts (CAVA), Badal had worked with advertising giant, Ogilvy and Mather before becoming an independent artist. He has also dabbled in theatre and movies and has worked in movies like Edegarike, Police Quarters, Lifeu Ishtene, Lucia and some theatre productions alongside stalwarts like Mandya Ramesh and Basavalingaiah as an art director. As an actor, he made his debut in the Kannada film industry with the movie Chaturbhuja. Right now, he has a new-found interest in writing. He says, “I am planning to write a script for a movie to be produced by B Suresh. I will direct the film.”