The Wise Owl talks to Asok Btk, an Artist from Thalassery, India. He works with watercolours as well as acrylics. His paintings beautifully capture and reflect the day-to-day life of his native world- Kerela.
Tête-à-Tête: Asok Btk
The Wise Owl talks to Asok Btk, an Artist from Thalassery, India. Asok has exhibited his artworks at various prestigious galleries in India in solo as well as group exhibitions. He works with watercolours as well as acrylics. His paintings beautifully capture and reflect the day-to-day life of his native world- Kerela.
Thank you, Asok, for talking to The Wise Owl.
TWO; Please tell us a little about your journey as an artist. What inspired you to paint? Did your family encourage you to pursue art?
AB: I was born in a beautiful area called Kariyad at the southern tip of Kannur district in Kerela. The village is rich with river, fields and agriculture, inhabited by ordinary people who give importance to humanity and compassion beyond economics, especially those who live a simple and beautiful life as wage earners and farmers. I am one of seven children of working parents. I have heard that my grandfather (mother’s father) was an artist. I believe my aesthetics and love of art must be inherited from my mother.
But I came to this field quite unexpectedly. My elder brother used to draw well. He was also a political activist and as part of the political activities, banners, boards etc were done at our house. I remember helping him with the paintings and sculptures. Due to my brother’s untimely demise, the work of drawing/painting for the party fell on my shoulders. That was the beginning of my journey as an artist.
Like I said, I lived with innocent people in the countryside. The models of my paintings are ordinary people who work and labour hard to earn a living with grace and pride. My mother and siblings, my village folk, after my wedding, my wife and my children, Adwaitha and Anawaetha, have always been with me on my artistic journey giving me full support and encouragement.
TWO: Looking at your beautiful artworks posted on Facebook, I find that you recreate a montage of native ambience and life. For the benefit of the readers please tell us what inspires you to create these images.
AB: It is said that experiences of childhood have an impact on a person’s character. As I have said earlier, my native Kariyad is a beautiful place and the natural beauty of my native place had a great influence on me. Mahé River (also known as Mayyazhipuzha or the English Channel of India) ran through my native place. My favourite pastimes were swimming, bathing and fishing in the river. We all went to school after bathing in the river in the morning, which was unpolluted by the heaps of garbage that are remnants of modern life. During the rainy season, the river would overflow and fill our yard and fields. We have happy and fun memories of playing there with our friends.
Rainy season was my favourite. The beautiful folksongs of the women, including my mother, working in the paddy fields near the house as they were drenched in the rain, the herds of cows, oxen and goats, the men who nimbly climbed the tall coconut trees to pluck the ripe fruit and the men who helped to retrieve coconuts floating in the river, the road to school where the water lilies (small lotus) abound… these are the beautiful memories you will find reflected and captured in my paintings.
As an artist, I am bound to capture and recreate images that paint the natural beauty of my native place as well as the extreme and difficult conditions of the ordinary man who works hard to improve his living condition. My images are beautiful because they express my love for my countryside and village folk.
TWO: What is your favourite medium as an artist? You appear to mostly work with watercolours. It is a difficult medium to control. How did you learn this masterly control over watercolours?
AB: Art is my life as well as my living, so I am ready to work in any medium. Apart from paintings I have done many sculptures in Kerela and Bangalore. I am now working on a 12 feet tall sculpture of Lord Buddha for an Ayurveda resort in Kerela.
Watercolours is the most difficult medium. Re-takes are not possible for that. Once a stroke is made, it cannot be changed or erased. I remember what my teacher used to say. He said, “For someone who can do watercolour beautifully, it is easy to handle any other medium.” The only way to master this medium is through consistent practice. I love this medium so much that I try my best to do at least one watercolour every day. I believe that such constant efforts have led to the masterly control you mention in my artworks.
But along with my creative satisfaction as an artist, I also share with you the frustration that every artist faces. I share with you the naked truth that an artist uses expensive paper and colors but it is unfortunate that sometimes these paintings are unscrupulously thrown into a waste paper basket.
TWO: You work ‘geetopadesam’ in acrylic paint is beautiful. Tell us a little about the inspiration behind this creation. Does this reflect your philosophy of life?
AB: I believe that all Vedas and Puranas are taught with the ultimate goal of leading man to goodness. Indian mythology is a rare and beautiful repository of values which is relevant even to the modern world. Lord Krishna’s advice to Arjuna is as important today as it was during the Mahabharata, the battle of Kauravas and Padavas. This is the main reason for picking up this subject for my painting.
Another reason was that a friend had requested the painting for a relative who lived a ‘satvic’ life and wanted to give it pride of place in the drawing room of his new house.
TWO: Tell us a little bit about how you approach a new work and how you execute the final canvas?
AB: I believe that all paintings are a direct or indirect reproductions of Nature’s creations. However, what makes the artwork different is how I project my perception of the world onto my canvas. Before I begin a painting, I spend a lot of time on thinking how I can make the experience of viewing my artwork different for the viewer. I think deeply about the play of light and shade and also the emotions and feelings the work is likely to evoke in the viewer. I try to make it a new and different experience for the viewer. This is brief is the creative process that goes into all my artworks.
TWO: Which artists are your favourite (traditional as well as contemporary)? What is it about their work that attracts you?
AB: I have no role models but lots of favourites. In fact, it would be correct to say that I love all good paintings. My approach is to adopt the positive aspects of the craft from creative wizards. I believe that in the realm of art, every man is a student and learning the craft is an ongoing lifelong process.
TWO: You are also a teacher. What advice would you give budding artists about how to hone their skills?
AB: Observe the living environment closely. Practice keeping the sights in mind and recalling them at will. Make the most of your experiences. Read and view the works of great artists. Most importantly develop your own style of painting without imitating others. No matter how great an artist you are, do not let go off humanity…Ultimately a good artist is a good human being.
TWO: Are you working on an exhibition as we speak? Do share details with our readers.
AB: For an Indian artist, it is a proud moment to have a solo exhibition at Jehangir art Gallery, Mumbai. My exhibition is also scheduled in this prestigious gallery. I will let you know the exact date soon. All the viewers of The Wise Owl are cordially invited to my exhibition.
Thank you, Asok, for taking time out to speak with The Wise Owl about your creativity and beautiful artwork. Wishing you the very best in your journey as an artist.