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January 31, 2008 • The Times of India

ART COMES CALLING

New Jersey based artist Rasika Reddy
speaks to Debasmita Ghosh
about her journey in art

Hyderabad may be her home town but Rasika Reddy found her calling as a painter in the US. The NRI candidly admits to TOI that while life abroad did introduce her to broader premises, it feels great to come back to the city, reminisce on her childhood, have sumptuous homemade ‘biriyani’ with ‘mirchi-ka-salaan’ and yes, exhibit her works as well.

Did you always want to become an artist?
To a certain extent, yes, but in those days there weren't many opportunities and one couldn't afford to take risks in career. So I did my masters in Philosophy from Hyderabad Central University and planned to work in a related field. Then soon after my marriage in 1982, I moved to the US. The initial years were spent in bringing up my kids until we moved to England. The opportunities in UK excited me so much that I decided to give shape to my long lost dream. I first completed my BTEC in Fine Arts from Brooklands College, Weybridge and then enrolled myself in the West Surrey University for Art and Design at Farnham for the BA honours in fine arts. Starting to paint all over again after long break was tough but fun. Balancing household chores with studies was taxing but at the end of the day it felt like a decision worth taking because I was learning new processes and techniques and enjoying every bit of my course.

…And philosophy lost its track down the line?
Not at all. In fact I'm glad I have knowledge of philosophy too because the various philosophical concepts I had learnt about actually enriched my thought process. This helped me express myself better on canvas.

Was it difficult to cope with being creative in an alien culture?
See, one has to be open to changes and when you are young it isn't really so tough. Sometimes I did try pushing myself a bit harder in order to fit myself in their frame but my teachers constantly encouraged me to be myself and to do what resonates within me, be it in my lifestyle or style of painting. That’s probably the reason why in spite of training in the UK, I am able to stick to my roots and you will always find a strong eastern essence in my work. I must admit that in all these 16 years that I have lived abroad, I did feel like an outsider sometimes, but never ever felt rejected.

Was it difficult to get appreciation in the US?
Well tough again but I think true talent really pays off. I kept painting and my first big show was held at the Watchung Art Centre in New Jersey in 2005, two years after my family and I moved to New Jersey from England. People in New Jersey thronged to see Indian art and most of my paintings were sold.

I did several other shows after that, both in New Jersey and the State Art Gallery in Hyderabad. Currently, I am a board member of the 75-year-old prestigious Visual Arts Centre of New Jersey, which, apart from having a studio and school, also runs several art promotional programmes and interactive workshops for the underprivileged, who do not have access to art.

How is the art scenario in US different from that in India?
New Jersey has a vibrant art community. Earlier, people here only took interest in Chinese and Russian art but now they are simply crazy about Indian art and regard Indian artists highly for their ethnic styles and motifs. Like India, here two categories of art lovers exist, one who understands the thing really well and hence buy art and the other who collects it for decorative purposes. At the end of the day it’s how much credibility you are able to build up and your work is priced accordingly.