Bakula Nayak takes you through Malleswaram of the ’80s in her latest show
The last time we chatted, artist Bakula Nayak was a few days away from her first exhibition — watercolour paintings on antique paper, some dating back to 1931. That was in late 2013. Four years is a long time and aesthetics and preferences are reshaped and altered as the days and months roll by. But Bakula’s affinity for antique finds remains undiminished, as evidenced by the subject of her forthcoming show at Phoenix Kessaku. Titled Confessions of a Love-a-holic, the exhibition is a tribute to the Rajajinagar-Malleswaram areas of the ’80s. The showcase will be accompanied with musical performances and storytelling. “This is a nostalgic reflection of growing up in the two neighbourhoods told through my watercolour works,” says Bakula, adding, “When we were kids, we’d refer to our neighbourhood moms as Christian auntie, Muslim auntie and Tamil auntie, just as my mother was referred to as Mangalore auntie. It was never meant in a derogatory way. But doing that today has different undertones and I sometimes wonder if we are not being inclusive in our quest to be politically correct.”
Sticking to her signature style, the paintings are done on yellowed antique paper, some so fragile, it’s a wonder they didn’t tear under all those artful brushstrokes. “I never know how the paper is going to react until I start working on it. Each sheet is so different,” reveals Bakula, as she points to a freshly framed painting of a blue and white chintz patterned teapot accompanied with tea cake from the legendary Variar bakery she’d visit almost every day as a child. Other paintings too draw from motifs that she was surrounded by during the ‘80s.
Kannada is an important theme in the series, as are local pop culture references and old institutions. The sheets that serve as her canvas bear Kannada text, while her talk will be interspersed with popular Kannada songs. “One part of the talk is about Navrang theatre. This particular section will have a Rajkumar song performed by a friend,” reveals Bakula who returned to India, seven years ago, after living in the US for a little over a decade.
The artist says that while so much has been written about the history of the Central Business District and the ‘petes,’ Malles-waram and Rajajinagar are often ignored. “These neighbourhoods still feel like old Bangalore,” she enthuses, adding that they also have historic significance. For instance, Rajajinagar houses a museum of legendary artist and freedom fighter Rumale Channabasavaiah, who is considered the Van Gogh of India. The neighbourhood is also home to an Ashoka pillar, inscribed with dates of when the surrounding areas were formed. “For me, Bangalore is a feeling, more than a place,” she signs off.