IN OUR MIDST: PAINTER, POET, PROPHET
Chicago-based Indian artist, Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao, is an accomplished oil painter and poet that has been compared to Klee, Dali, and Picasso.
His usage of colors and unique patterns sets him on a new level compared to the works of his peers. Rama Rao received the Padma Shiri award, the highest award a civilian can achieve in Indian Government for his gift as an artist.
Rao (born 1936) is a British painter of Indian descent, known for his cubist paintings Holder of Commonwealth Fellowship of 1962, he was honored by the Government of India, in 2001, with the fourth highest Indian civilian award of Padma Shri Rao, whose father was a wood carver and, later, builder, was born in Gudiwada, in the South India state of Andhra Pradesh, in 1936, His graduate studies were in Accounting and Banking in which he graduated from Andhra University in 1955.
During this period, he studied art under the tutelage of K. Venugopal and later, under K Srinivasulu and secured a government diploma in Fine Arts in 1955 from Kalakshetra, Chennai.
On the insistence of the progressive art director of the institution, Madhavapeddi Gokhale, he joined Madras School of Arts and Crafts, present day Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai for advanced training and passed a Fine Arts degree course in 1959. Simultaneously, he studied Economics and secured a second graduate degree from Andhra University.
His association with the renowned painter, K. C. S. Paniker, in Chennai, assisted him in his growth and he moved to New Delhi in 1959 under a Government of India research fellowship where he stayed till 1962. On receiving a Commonwealth Fellowship that year, Rao migrated to UK and studied at the Slade School of Fine Arts, University of London till 1965 under William Coldstreamand the next two years were spent at London County Council as a teacher of painting and drawing.
Later, in 1967, he shifted to US and passed the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) course from the University of Cincinnati in 1969 and concurrently taught at the university as a teaching assistant, a post he held till 1969. He then moved to Western Kentucky University as a professor of fine arts and later, he moved his base to Chicago.
Rao's lithographs are found in the collections of Herbert Reed, Tate Gallery, London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Some of his exhibitions have been co-hosted by renowned modern painters such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Georges Braque and Salvador Dali and his paintings are sold by art auctioneers such as Bonhams[ and Rosebury's Fine Arts Auctioneers.
His works are displayed at the following:
· Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
· Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
· Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand
· Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
· Nuffield Foundation, London, England
· Linx House Foundation, Glasgow, Scot Land
· National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India
· British Council, London, England
· Asia House, New York, New York
· Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, AL
· University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
· Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Boston, MA
· Ford Foundation, New Delhi, India
· University of London, London, England
· Chitralaya State Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram, India
· India International Centre, New Delhi, India
Rao, who is also credited with publications of his poetry and he is married to Suguna and they have a daughter, Padmavathi, a known classical dancer of Bharatanatyam.
In a house on a quiet cul-de-sac in Palos Hills lives an abstract painter who has been classed with art immortals such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. His works appear in collections in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum.
S.V. Rama Rao, 66, a native of India who has lived in the United States since 1969, may not be a celebrity in the Chicago area, but in recognition of his career in art, his native country this year bestowed upon him its highest civilian award, the Padma Shri.
The honor recognizes distinguished service to the nation in any field. The award, presented to Rama Rao by Indian ambassador Lalit Mansingh in Washington in April, consists of a medal and the Padma Shri title, similar to the title of "sir" accorded those knighted in England.
Although deeply honored by the award, Rama Rao seems even more pleased by his recent fresh output of abstract paintings--his first works in the genre after a 20-year hiatus. His new paintings drew enthusiastic praise in India, where they were his first to be displayed since he left that country 40 years ago.
In the United States, the somewhat reclusive artist is only beginning to reappear on the art scene.
To read this entire article written by
Special to the Tribune
November 6, 2002 and
published in Chicago Tribune
click on the link below.
I cannot explain to anyone
the silent anguish,
this painful feeling
of migration from
the country I came from.
If I go back now to settle down,
to the place of my birth,
I may not survive long.
My friends with whom I studied
left for far off lands,
to pursue higher studies
or seeking greener pastures
but never returned.
Some settled down in
far flung States.
Others are no more:
departed to the birthplace of their souls.
Quite a few became ill
at an early age,
by unshakable poverty
and ever-increasing family burden.
Where I looked
I faced new faces,
none I knew.
Even the street names
I was familiar with
have been replaced.
The house I was born in
is now a gas station.
Even the burial ground
my parents chose
as a final resting place
is no longer theirs
but belongs to
whoever comes next.
I think myself a vagabond,
-- a troubadour-- pleasing every one,
roaming everywhere uninvited --
claiming every place as mine.
Even the country I live in now
-- years and decades --
is not mine.
Whom do I tell
about my pain?
The river born at one place
rushes out to unknown places,
changing course many a time
in its length and breadth,
but never returns
-- even once --
to its place of birth.
A Video by News4Art on Youtube
Painting asks me
My reason for painting.
"Why do I have children?
Why does anyone breathe?
Why do I paint?
"How do you define your painting?"
Again painting asks.
"You should ask
Grandma Moses, and Grant Wood,
who have had predetermined goals, and
defined opinions on life and art.
How can you ask me
a non-conformist thinker
And an abstract painter.
I am the wrong person to answer,"
I can only offer Picasso's answer
to these trivial questions.
His ambition was to retain
the same pristine pure and beautiful color
of the unpainted canvas
after he finished the painting.
"When a bird sings," he said,
"we should enjoy the music,
but it is futile to search for a meaning."
"What type of a painting do you want me to be?"
"My dear painting,
As I do not allow
my very life to contain me,
How can I
with clear conscience,
control, direct and shape you
as I like?
In what form, manner, or style
would you like to appear
on my canvas?
It is your decision,
I am simply an audience.
Your longevity is greater than my life.
"The Mona Lisa is in existence even today,
but not Leonardo Da Vinci.
When I stand in front of you,
beloved painting of mine,
I have the unexplainable
Holy feelings and emotions,
Like that of an expectant mother.
I, too, watch and eagerly await
with a thousand unblinking eyes,
to see what kind
of a wondrous and mysterious painting
you will emerge."
All of us
wanted to return to India
after completing the education.
Never dreamt that our stay
would be so long -
years and decades are passing by,
we are still here - all of us.
Our parents, brothers and sisters
are there in India
and we in America.
Our young daughter
born in this land of opportunity,
classical dance of India,
chants Bhagavad Gita
the holy book of Hindu religion, and
eats our Indian spicy food in a funny manner -
mixing all the curries including fried-okra with curd-rice.
When she speaks in broken Telugu,
our mother tongue from South India,
it sounds like she is singing in English.
She keeps the American and Indian flags
on her study desk,
watches romantic movies in Telugu language and sings American pop songs.
America is not an alien land,
simply a different country like India,
For the two countries
she is the connecting bridge.
Water is the same in all the rivers, and in any country the snow is white.
The lake water in my home town
Palos Hills, a suburb of Chicago in America
and the canal water in my birth place of Gudivada of Andhra Pradesh State
in India are the same except in name.
Where we came from
shows the mirror,
where we are heading
shows our daughter.
The sun is there where he was before.
Stars established residence in the sky.
Clouds do not fly on the ground but
stay only in the sky and
rain naturally rains as usual.
Nothing is new.
There is no change in history.
Rulers and religions are there
to rule and hold the people forever
in their grips.
There is one dictator ruling
whether we accept it or not.
There was once a Stalin, Mussolini,
a king or a prime minister,
or a president.
What does it matter who the rulers are?
we are the pawns in their intrigue.
The cruelly punished and banished
millions of Russians
by their own Government
lived wasting their lives
for a mere survival
In the God-forsaken Siberia, and
and the miserable lives of the millions
living in the ghettos of the cursed third world
or the homeless wanderers
in the countries of the unimaginable riches,
in the United States of America
or the few elite European countries
are same - what is the difference?
What change is there in history?
Every thing is same.
All of us - who believe stubbornly
that we will born again and again
are destined to be born
as cockroaches or ants
to be devoured instantly
by the eagerly awaiting lizard nearby.
It is certain that the hunter will
shoot or kill us with sharp arrows
when we are born as an antelope or a deer
in future life.
Unless the dead empty the world
there is no place for the
newly born to grow and
for us to live longer.
Train stops in the station
to resume its journey again.
The starting point is the destination
for the train to make another journey.
History that belongs to the past
does not become the present.
The life stays sitting
where it was left and
leaves when it would get up.
Anything that was newly discovered
is not new at all -
it ought to have been
in existence before.
Then why was there a surprise?
The Sun is there
where he was before
and he will be there
at the same place tomorrow, too.
whatever happened happens again
where is the change in history?
Video: Artist & Critique Padma Shri Dr S V Rama Rao on Gandhi Docufiction
by Dr. Gautham Kashyap
There is as much truth in believing
that one can understand the form
as in thinking one does not.
Abstract artist believes that
formlessness is the true reality of form
but in actuality form in itself
is neither form nor formless.
It is in our thinking it takes
a shape of its own.
The abstract nature of truth
is real for one person without any doubt
whereas it is unbelievable to the other.
The glass is half full is as true as
the glass is half empty.
God has a definite physical form
in the mind of a Hindu
as he perceives his Gods
in hundreds of forms -
in surrealistic and abnormal shapes and sizes
with so many varied weapons held
in His innumerable hands to annihilate the evil.
Other religions utterly reject the Hindu forms of Gods
believing that God cannot be defined at all
as is beyond the power of the human mind.
Is it not true
worshipping God with open eyes
or praying Him with closed eyes
are one and same?