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Life is abstract, no doubt about it (Video)

Marlborough artist Sudhir Kumar Duppati gets philosophical on the graffiti wall in Blenheim's town centre.

New art workshop strips back the layers, taking you deep into your own cultural psyche. Reporter David James catches up with Indian artist Sudhir Kumar Duppati to talk art and existence.

Making art is not just about making pretty things that hang on walls, the process itself can be a psychological exploration for the artist also.

In the case of abstract art, anyway, interpretation can be a matter of perception; a departure from our commitments to what we think is the norm.

In a new workshop called 'Layers', presented by the Marlborough Arts Society and instructed by local artist, Indian-born Sudhir Kumar Duppati, participants will delve into their own cultural psyche by learning some of the ins and outs of an abstract process through the use of stencilling, print-making, painting and drawing.

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Duppati, who teaches Art and Design at Marlborough Boys' College, was born and educated in India. He has worked in various art schools and institutions in India, Africa, the United States and New Zealand, and along the way has taken up several international artist residencies in India, Budapest and Paris.


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His own personal journey has led him and his family to Marlborough, where he has resided for the past seven years as a teacher.

"In India, when we were in school we did not have much art so I used to just draw and paint at home with colours that were presents for me by friend and relatives," Duppati says.

"I was inspired to be an artist, but my parents wouldn't let me. They did not think art was a promising career. So after school I had to go into engineering just to satisfy my parents."

Teacher Sudhir Kumar Duppati says a typical day can have several layers, giving it the essence of abstract art.

Secretly, though, Duppati started applying to a fine arts school, and after several years, he eventually got accepted for the five-year degree. After which he began exploring the themes, such as multiculturalism and modernity, still present in his work today.

"A lot of my content comes from my background as an Indian. Art was also very rich during my childhood days and festivals and religious ceremonies are crucial to Indian culture.

"The colour, the sounds, the painting, the dance, the music, everything that is part of life is an inspiration to me. Having so many religions and festivals in India, makes for an interesting mix, and out of all that I am trying to figure out who I am and these things pop up in my work."

Duppati is well-travelled with a colourful career as a performance and installation artist as well.

His interests lie in the nature of experience and existence by referencing ourselves as primitive beings (our ancestral selves) embedded in a modern, information-rich and technological society.

So, as fully functioning members of a modern society, appearances can be deceiving. And so Duppati's workshop will explore the various 'layers' of ourselves as bio-cultural animals.

"This workshop I am doing relates to these kinds of layers of experiences. We live in a technological world, but we are also our primitive selves too. Our lives are layered. With layering, some things appear, and some things remain hidden. And these are all parts of who we are.

"But not everything is projected outside. Just like in a painting. A painting is layered, some things are seen, some things are not … It's just like in life, the way we dress and the way we appear, may not be who we are."

Members of the public will have the chance to explore their own personal history and aesthetic abilities through the layering of various materials and mediums.

"People will have the opportunity to put their own experiences into each step of the process. People can include photographs from their own lives, and anything associated with their own experience in their life – their past, their present and thoughts.

"In that way it will definitely be a personal journey for each participant."

Life is a work of art, if we take the time to consider its abstractness, Duppati explains.

"When you look at your own life in a day, it's definitely abstract. When you look at your day, you might do 20 different things in a day, which may or may not relate to each other. But we try and make sense of it. So how abstract is that?

"So imagine 10 or 20 different things happening on a canvas at once. And, in the end, it's a work of art. And it probably stands for itself."

The workshop is open to anyone at any level of experience, and Duppati says abstract art will come naturally to most people no matter their background. 

"I believe we all have a natural instinct towards art. And the idea that art is somehow separate from life – I am trying to reorganise that idea by saying, 'No, art is life. And life is art'."

The details

Layers Mixed Media Workshop

Yealands Estate Marlborough Gallery, 204 High St, Blenheim

Saturday, August 19, 10am–4pm

Sunday, August 20, 10am–4pm

$180 for two days

Contact Helen Ballinger on 021 026 78711




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