Painter of a royal art
If the Vijayanagar school of painting is still alive, the credit should go to Vijay Hagargundigi
FINE LINES It's a treat to watch Vijay Hagargundigi bring alive gods and goddesses with deft strokes
Vijay Hagargundigi is a much revered name in the art world for his sheer dedication to keep alive a dying art. The artist has single-handedly nurtured the Vijayanagar school of painting, popularly known as Surpur paintings.
It is a treat to watch Hagargundigi draw lines as thin as a the strands of a spider's web to bring alive images of gods, goddesses and folk heroes in bright colours, using gold occasionally to add glitter.
The Vijayanagar school of paintings, which thrived under the rule of Vijayanagar kings, fell by the wayside after the fall of the empire with the painters migrating to Thanjavur, Mysore, Shahapur and Surpur. While those who migrated to Tanjavur and Mysore came under the heavy influence of other styles and failed to maintain the identity of the original style, a small batch of painters who came to Surpur kept alive the tradition till the fall of the Bedar kings, who bravely faced and fought the British.
After the Mughals and the Nizams took over the reins of power, those who continued painting for a livelihood started shifting to other vocations.
After Independence, not much importance was given to the Surpur style of paintings. Artists did not want to pursue the art because of the costs involved and the intricate work. It was only after the well-known art critics and historians Jagadish Mittal and Jaya Appaswamy documented the Surpur school of paintings in two separate projects that the world woke up to the splendour of this art form.
Although these two documentaries gave an inside view of the glorious paintings of Vijayanagar style of paintings, it was Hagargundigi who was responsible for taking the Surpur style of paintings to the international arena. He also modified it to make it more acceptable to a wide spectrum of people.
Hailing from an agriculturist family in Hagargundigi, a tiny village on the outskirts of Gulbarga, the artist who takes his place name for his second name holds only a diploma in painting, and yet, has perfected the art to become a master in the profession.
He was originally trained in contemporary paintings, but his leanings towards traditional paintings drew him towards the Surpur style of paintings.
Vijay has done over 700 paintings and exhibited his paintings for three years continuously in Oxford University and in London.
Many of his paintings adorn the walls of private collectors within and outside the country and that of the Delhi Modern Art Gallery, Hyderabad House in New Delhi and other places.
Another of Hagargundigi's passions is collecting artefacts and sculptures.
His collection of paintings and sculptures is worth crores and is exhibited in the Hyderabad-Karnataka Development Board office.
However, this famed painter is now in dire straits, not having a house to live in. He is sleeping in the railway station and other public places after the officials in the Hyderabad Karnataka Development Board asked him not to stay in the hall given to him to exhibit his paintings and artefacts.
"After the board asked me to exhibit by paintings and sculptures in their office, I vacated the rented house in the city and moved into the place allotted in the board office. I do not know where to go now,'' he says.
Hagargundigi says he has a project on hand to paint the life and struggles of homosexuals and he has already prepared the sketch for the project and plans to start work soon.
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