BANGALORE: Intrigued by aspects of rural life, artist D S Chougale has showcased his works in a show titled My Village, My People at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. A Kannada lecturer at Bhaurao Kakatkar College Belagaum, playwright and short story writer, Chougale has successfully worn many hats. The artist talks about his exhibition which concludes today and also his creatuve influences.
How would you describe your style? Who are your teachers, influences and inspirations?
I have experimented with different styles. When I started off in 1999, I first did realistic work. After that, I've done abstract art, explored the nostalgia of rural ways of living that are disappearing. The works on display in the current exhibition are stylised figuratives. My first and last mentor in art was my high school teacher AP Patil. I'd often miss classes, and he was the one who recognised my skill, convinced me to be regular at school and taught me painting. A graduate of J J School of Art, he was great at realistic work.
My mother encouraged my interest in art, and my father, was a great admirer of folk forms. So I was exposed to Tamasha and other forms at a young age.
As a playwright, you have been active in Kannada theatre. How do you balance teaching, theatre and painting?
My mornings are spent at the college. Then I paint till there's daylight: I'd rather not work with colours in artificial light. I give myself to writing — plays, short stories, translation, whichever I'm working on at the time — after dark. And each of these creative fields interact with and influence each other.
What is special about your current show? What can visitors to the show expect?
Like I said earlier, my work imbibes the folk arts, yet it's contemporary, and there aren't too many people who are doing that. So I think that's special. It's essential for us not to forget our village roots, and I think this show could take people back to them, provided they are receptive.
You are now working with stylised lines and bright colours. Jogammas, or folk story tellers of your region, figure predominantly in your canvases. What does folk art mean to you?
I used these colours because they convey what I want to. These paintings are stylised, but the figuratives also bring out the human form well. Folk art is a very broad term. I have essayed to build a technique of my own that I think best says what I want to. I see the reach of mobile networks extending to villages. To me, this represents the micro-cultures that are slowly being sidelined and disappearing. So these vanishing figures find their way into my art.
For example, I've depicted the young Devadasi — part of an unfortunate but prevalent practice — and the older Jogamma that she becomes as she ages. Varkaris, devotees of Vitthala; Goggaiahs, priests of the Mylar Malliah diety and Sudagaadu or Shanke Siddas, a tribal community that believes in making predictions based on a particular species of bird also feature in my works. My work is also about the yearning in smaller towns and villages to adopt the glossy urban living. Maybe, it's partly a reflection of me too — as a teacher, I can't speak in my village tongue all the time. So when I talk to someone in Bangalore, I talk like a Bangalorean; when I converse with someone from Mysore, my language sounds like his or her. That way, I'm versatile, but I've lost touch with my language.