An artist of the intuitive world
An interview with Deviprasad C. Rao
Issue No.19 of “evolve magazine” was designed with the works of artist Deviprasad C. Rao. They interviewed him about his art. Originally it was published in German and here is an English translation of the same.
evolve: You call yourself an "artist of the intuitive world". What do you mean by that?
Deviprasad C. Rao: When I say I am an artist of the intuitive world, I mean that I work without any preconceived opinions, ideas or concepts. It's like Zen, where they say the beginner's mind is always empty and open to everything. I create spontaneously. I also call my work intuitive because I don't use my intellect too much in the creative process. Because I don't have that intellectual power at all, the ability to first express something with words and then let it become visually visible. I am not like that. When I create something, I let my inner child come alive. I am open like a child who is always in the here and now. When I start, it just happens. I have no design, no drawings, no sketches of what I paint. Instead, I develop a visual vocabulary that I use to tell new visual stories that resonate with my inner self.
What inspires me and helps me express myself are human creations. Nature offers me no surprises. Nature makes me peaceful, joyful and happy. It is omnipresent and simply present. I cannot change it or express anything of it, because its beauty is beyond my capacities of experience and expression. What is created by human beings, on the other hand, triggers all kinds of emotions and thoughts in me. As soon as I open a newspaper or turn on the television, all kinds of feelings and thoughts flow through me. What I see touches my inner child and I start to paint. Because in the state of creating, my inner child is alive and I can be in touch with it. I cannot do that from the so-called state of adulthood or intellectuality and not from that of a so-called mature or intellectual personality. I let my inner child express itself and unfold freely.
What particularly amazes, astonishes, shocks or surprises me are works of architecture - huge buildings, cities, machines, cranes as high as houses and industrial buildings such as in Duisburg. I did a whole series on these huge factories that are closed but have been opened to the public as parks and recreation areas. These huge boilers, the tubes and chimneys simply amaze me with their scale. Such impressions provide me with the inspiration to create. My creations are not about the very deep and complex things. I let the intuitive feeling that I process internally flow into my work.
Six years ago I came to Europe for the first time and immediately fell in love with the architecture of these cities. Take Lisbon, these streets, these alleys, the buildings, they all have something antique about them. I've often been to Germany, too, to Duisburg, Düsselfdorf, Bamberg, Munich, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Berlin or the cities along the Rhine. There is so much artistic architecture there. It amazes me that it could be created even though people didn't have the technology that we have today. Today we mainly create concrete blocks in different shapes. We have achieved a certain perfection, but for humans, the imperfect was the true perfection. I am attracted to this kind of imperfection, because straight lines bore me. My lines are unaffected, wobbly, not finely drawn, imperfect.
evolve: When you talk about the fascination that buildings or cities have for you, is it just about being amazed or do you also want to get to the heart, the soul of a city or a building?
Devi: First, I feel how a sense arises for me, how a city seduces me. I go into every street and around every corner, and there might be something there that makes me happy, or something that really touches me. In European cities, for example in Portugal, Germany or France, you find a mixture of modern and old, old and new merge. In cities like that, a kind of explosion happens inside me. That is the state from which I try to capture the city in my own perspectives, ideas, ways of seeing and visions, which then flow into my pictures.
Yes, I already try to express the soul of the city - I don't know what the soul is for others, but I try to portray it from my perspective. I often recreate the city as well, in my own childlike way. There are some real things in the city that I leave as they are in my paintings, then again I describe their density and intensity with my lines and colours. I try to depict the soul through the colours, some familiar points and through the shapes. I try to show people my perspective or my vision of the city.
evolve: In your paintings, you work a lot with strokes, doodles and shapes that come from a certain playfulness or creativity. What does the process of creating a work of art look like for you?
Devi: The playfulness comes from the child in me. Art came into my life as therapy. I never studied art. At a certain point, my marriage got into trouble and I went through traumatised issues. The whole thing almost destroyed me, I almost wanted to kill myself. At that time I wanted to heal myself, so painting came to me naturally. In this process I realised that my inner child was dead. The process for me was to bring the child back to life, to find myself anew. A long time ago I went through a process with meditation and therapy. Eventually I found myself anew as a childlike - not childish - and humorous person.
In this state, I am creative. I can only create when I am happy. It is no longer therapy, it is a way of living. It is meditation, but it also has to be playful. The playfulness comes from my individuality, which has become playful over time. I want to look at everything with humour and as play. Sometimes my art is also very serious because it is my response to my environment, and I also want to explore my different feelings and emotions. When I am in a state of playfulness, I see things very simply, and through that I can also accept complexity.
Lines and dots are an integral part of my inner visual language, without lines and dots I cannot perceive things. Sometimes I construct a painting and then deconstruct it again through dots and lines. Or I create a city with layers of paint, many people would consider it a completed painting, but I don't stop there. I drip my lines on it, using a technique inspired by Jackson Pollock's art. I also draw lines with bamboo sticks, copper rods or with tree bark.
evolve: You do that because these lines and dots have a certain simplicity? Or is that just the way you perceive?
Devi: Yes, it's just the way I perceive things, and I like the simplicity, but it also gives my work a new visual appearance. There are too many artworks in the world, and in such a world I want to be heard. This drives me to express my own visual language. I don't want to become an artist who creates something that is very practiced or naïve. I want to create something that is not so obvious for people to understand and easy to process. I want to arouse curiosity in the viewer. I want to paint pictures that continue to grow with people every day. Many people who have bought my works often tell me that they discover something new in it every time they look at it. This corresponds to my fundamental concern. In this way, a painting becomes a reference point for the viewer's self-reflection. The painting should show you what else you are in yourself. For what you see in the painting reflects your present state of consciousness or self. My wish is that my paintings are not much interpreted but experienced.
evolve: You have said that your work should not be interpreted but experienced. Is there something specific you want to provoke in people with your work?
Devi: Yes, I provoke the viewer, I challenge his own inner self. Most people then turn away. That is easy. That's why my aim is not to give people thoughts or intellectual content, but to awaken their own beautiful inner intelligence. Because for me, it's not the personality that counts, which is false or imposed, the individuality is much more important to me because I was born with it. I want to awaken this individuality, and I mean that in a very subtle, graceful and spiritual sense. I try with my work to help them get in touch with themselves. At the same time, it is a work of art, it has its own aesthetic value. I make sure that my paintings are well balanced spatially, and that happens intuitively.
evolve: You came to art more in search of healing and spiritual insight. How is this dimension reflected in your art?
Devi: In my work I try to find peace amidst the density and intensity of life. To find myself in the midst of chaos. The creation of my work is always in itself an act of rebellion. By rebellion I don't mean that I go against the structures, but I rebel against my own conditioned self. Yes, I am only rebelling against my own conditioning. And through this I can always develop myself further. I don't look at my growth from the perspective of my biological age, my experience, my success or my wealth. I try to evaluate myself and my art according to how much evolution I have allowed into my life and what I have contributed to existence as a whole. The inner evolution is more important for me. I don't follow anyone, I only follow myself. Art comes from the depths of my inner being.
I don't make my art for the sake of the world approving it. When I start a work, it is not for anyone, usually not even for myself. When I finish it, it's not for me either. It is for everyone. It is for the world. This existence has made me an artist, and I give my works back to existence. I don't expect much in return. If I get something, I accept it as a gift or a blessing, even if it is a criticism.
evolve: You were born in India but have worked a lot in Europe. To what extent has your view of the relationship between East and West influenced your work? How has it changed over the years?
Devi: In the beginning, I felt like a tourist here, until I really moved here. Nevertheless, it has not been difficult for me. Everything new helps me, everything new gives me a kind of ecstasy. Even before I came to Europe, I could appreciate the Western consciousness and develop it myself. It was not so difficult to perceive the West because I already had it inside me. India is very conservative in many ways, the western perspective has liberated me and balanced my view of the world.
My art seems to have a connection with Europe. Even back home in India, people noticed influences of European masters in my work, which I didn't know at the time, like Paul Klee or Joan Miró. Then I started educating myself and found myself very impressed by Joan Miró, because of his childlike approach.
I have deep roots in India. I was born into a so-called Hindu family, but in India it was said that the whole world is one family. So my Indian identity is linked to this understanding of a universal family. I always like to meet people from other cultures and religions. India has also given me a spiritual life. And now I live here in the western world, where people lack the spiritual essence in their private lives.
India taught me many beautiful things that are now and will remain part of my life experience. But since my childhood, my soul could not believe that it is merely part of a family, caste, religion, society, city, state, country or continent. I feel that I am part of the whole existence, an ordinary citizen of this world (being ordinary is the most peaceful way of life in this complicated world, which is full of complicated personalities).
evolve: You have also taught art in India. What was your experience?
Devi: Yes, I taught art, but the aim of my teaching was not to produce artists. My teaching was not about teaching anything, but about helping children to be creative. I realised some time ago that we cannot teach and not learn, but we can only help others to learn. I am convinced that creativity is necessary in every area of life - if you clean the flat or tidy up or if you want to become a pilot, doctor, engineer, lawyer - whatever. But creativity has to be there, it is an innate ability. I support children in giving free rein to their creativity. I ask them why a rose has to have red blossoms and green leaves, maybe it could have other colours. I think this is important because children create the future. They need new perspectives to live in the new world where the old world is the past.
I also tried to create a creative group atmosphere where the children could be creative with each other. They were smiling and laughing all the time, being happy and having fun together. I tried to teach them the quality of humour, of happiness, because I believe that the true celebration of life is that you choose to be happy, no matter where you are or how you are doing. When you are unconditionally happy, you are at peace. That's how you can balance yourself, you don't need a psychiatrist to find inner peace. I believe that we came into life with a big smile and with a big potential. It is only the conditioning of the environment that makes us weak and vulnerable to all the different things that shape us. I tried to show the children that they are beautiful souls. And that they are here on earth to bring beauty into this existence with their thoughts, feelings and actions. That's what my art classes were about, and that's how I live my own life.
(Deviprasad C. Rao was born in India and now lives in Switzerland. Many years ago he left his job in PR & Marketing to devote himself entirely to art, which he taught himself.)
About evolve magazine:
It is tri-monthly publication and the voice of a new culture of consciousness that is manifesting itself in all areas of our society. In science, philosophy, politics, economics, art, psychology, people are questioning the previous approaches to thinking and acting. In view of the crises of our time, new perspectives are necessary and possible: we track down the innovative visionaries and activists and offer them a forum for dialogue.
(Data source: http://www.evolve-magazine-de)