I first met Prasad Natarajan in 2014, when we attended a wildlife volunteer training program together. Even then, in the beautiful environs of Kudremukh, Karnataka, I always found him with a sketchpad and a pencil in his hands.
Since then, his artwork, especially on the theme of wildlife, has become quite well known. He is not afraid of using the most difficult and unforgiving of art media, such as Indian ink (lampblack collected in a container and mixed with grease, and applied carefully to paper.) He is now an artist whose work finds homes across the world.
However, Prasad decided to step beyond displaying his own talent. In March 2017, he conceived the idea of mounting an exhibition and competition of wildlife art. In Bengaluru, a city which has hosted many wildlife events, including wildlife photography festivals, this would be the first such exhibition; indeed, it is probably the first such competition-cum-exhibition in the country.
Artists from all over the country, and abroad, sent in their work to be exhibited. The event finally came to fruition and was held at the Venkatappa Art Gallery in Bangalore, from January 28th to February 1, 2018….almost a year of hard and unremitting work.
A lot of hard work
Mounting such an exhibition was not easy. Prasad first reached out to the fraternity of wildlife artists, asking if they would like to show their work. Several artists responded, and after he shortlisted the participants, sent him their pieces, which he stored in his own home, taking the utmost care of them. The pictures displayed covered a remarkable variety of media used. A few sculptures by Eric Ramanujam were also part of the show.
“The artists sent me their works in all kinds of frames and sizes,” he smiles reminiscently. “Transporting them to the gallery, and back, was one of the major logistics hurdles. We hired a mini truck for all non-glass-framed artwork, and a car for all pieces with frames. Most of the art works were taken back by the artists at the gallery, but the remaining pieces, which are from outside Bangalore, will be couriered back to the artists.”
Did he have anyone to help in all this? Prasad points gratefully to Sree Latha P, an artist whom he met at several art events. She volunteered to help, designing the brochure, and cheerfully working on the many details that cropped up. “Certainly,” he says, “next year, I cannot increase her burden; I am going to need more volunteers to help me!”
Prasad named the event “Artists for Wildlife and Nature, Annual Wildlife Art Show” (AWN for short).
A large gathering of luminaries from both wildlife and art circles attended the opening. Nearly Rs.55,000 was recorded in sales, over the four days. For artists looking for their first commercial break, this was heartening indeed. As Prasad looked out over the sea of faces, he felt profoundly thankful for the support of his wife Asha, and his son Dhritiman.
Another important point to note was that the event generated zero waste, under Prasad’s watchful eye.
23 artists participated, with Prasad curating the work to be displayed. In a show of solidarity, 18 of them were present at the show opening.
The young students who participated were Daksesh D Velu, Neha Satish, Vidisha Choudhary, Kuruganti Naga Priyanka and Gowri L Jadhav.
Artists and awardees
AWARDEES AT THE COMPETITION
Artist of the Year Award Winner- Sweta Dilip Desai
Judge: Hemlata Pradhan
Sweta, and her father, who are from Goa, as well as artists like Prahlad Hegde, wore delighted smiles at the exposure their art was getting, with over 600 people visiting the exhibition over the four days.
Though the rates charged by the Venkatappa Art Gallery in Bengaluru are extremely reasonable, Prasad sounds a note of warning about the booking process. ” We officially booked the gallery two months before the show,” he says. “But what I did not notice was that the dates needed to be entered six months prior to the show in the gallery register. This was a pencil entry by the person in charge of the gallery. When I went to make the final arrangements, I found that the last date (1st Feb) had been erased, and the gallery rented out to someone else.”
Since even ink-entries might be erased by a whitener, it might be better to take a photo of the register entry on one’s mobile phone, and keep that as proof of the dates that the gallery has been booked for.
To see images of and by the artists, and guests who visited the exhibition, you can see Prasad’s Facebook album of the event here. [All photos used in the story have been sourced from the same album]