A casual look at artist Kandi Narsimulu and his artworks reveals a strong influence of Telangana culture and its rural countryside. One sees hints of what the culture was and the metamorphosis it has undergone in many of his figurative paintings. It’s there in the switch from pockets in petticoats to stylish purses tucked neatly at the waist of the saree by women and cloth bags replaced by leather ones carried by the men. Depicting his childhood memories and Telangana’s vivid history in even brighter hues is what Narsimulu seeks to do. Mostly working with acrylics on canvas and fiberglass sculptures, his goal is to portray many of the forgotten elements of the culture.
“Before starting, I photographed all sorts of old objects that were used in those days like bokkena, kundena, rolu rokali and incorporated them in my works,” says Narsimulu whose works can be seen displayed at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport and Salarjung Museum among others.
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Growing up in the small hamlet of Kaslabad, near Siddipet, Kandi Narsimulu’s exposure to art was close to nil. In fact for a long time, he thought art was simple drawings. “I didn’t even know that there were different types of artists like illustrators, storyboard artists, caricaturists etc. I had no idea that there were actual courses where one could learn different types of artistic styles. But I had a fascination for drawing from childhood and would sketch anything that came to my mind,” shares Narsimulu. Coming from a family of limited means, going to school and eventually getting into a stable profession was important. But being weak in English as a child, led to a lot of issues for Narsimulu who had difficulty following lessons in school. “But I managed to scrape through somehow and got into high school which was 3 km away from my village. I used to go on foot and started learning signboard painting in the afternoon when I came into Class 7,” adds Narsimulu.
The turning point in his life came when he moved to Hyderabad in search of work. Having learnt signboard painting, he started to eke out a living in the city. “During this time, I was coming out of a theatre one day when I saw this huge cinema banner. I wanted to learn how to make such posters and started working as an assistant to one such artist. While I was doing this, someone saw my work and told me I should do bachelors in arts,” says Narsimulu who applied for BFA at Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University (JNAFAU) in 1993 and followed it up with an MFA in 2009.
“I came directly from my village and wrote the test. People actually take coaching for the arts test, but I didn’t have money for even a coach. Fortunately, I got through,” says the artist. Following stints in the gaming industry as a modeling and texture artist and a layout artist in Ramoji Film City, despite apprehensions, he decided to go fulltime into the field of art encouraged by senior artist Laxman Aelay. “I had done a couple of paintings while I was working and approached many artists and galleries requesting them to promote my work. But all of them turned me down,” explains Narsimulu whose struggles continued for quite some time. “Laxman sir encouraged me to keep following my passion and not lose my signature style. I soon got a chance to showcase four of my paintings in a Mumbai gallery, where all of them got sold.”
His success streak continued with solo and group shows in Alankritha Art gallery, State Art Gallery, Muse Art Gallery and Daira Art Centre, apart from showcases at numerous art camps. In 2016, he won the first prize in the All India painting Competition (Bathukamma) organised by Government of Telangana. Despite many accolades, he laments that upcoming artist have to take a long road to success. “It’s very difficult for upcoming artists to come up. An artist needs to have a lot of patience and not lose hope to make it in this field,” says Narsimulu who is now busy with preparations for the Sasaran International Art Festival to be held from December 1 to 12 in Selangor, Malaysia.