In recent years, artist Deviprasad C Rao (fondly known as DEVI) was inspired by creative dimensions of the density of several cities in the world. He was often awed by human creations and the progression of civilization mainly in the field of architecture, design and town planning. Eventually, his curiosities developed into subject matter of his creations using his own visual language. As he continued his study of various cities around the world, he conceived the idea of painting a new body of art works titled Den-City Series.
A couple of years ago, when he was in search of a city to begin Den-City Series he came across an article published in New York Times titled, “How I fell for Lisbon” by Frank Bruni, a well known American journalist. Ever since, his all attention was grabbed by Lisbon and knowing more about this fascinating place and it’s history. Being a resident of Goa, an Old Portuguese colony, his friends from Lisbon, Mr Bruni’s article and his own sturdy of the city culminated into the beginning of a new project. What impressed Devi most was Lisbon’s history, culture and especially its redevelopment after the devastating earthquake in the18th century that destroyed a large part of the city and thus, reshaped its present.
In Devi’s own words, “It is easy to choose a city that whole crowd follows. But I wanted a city that can invite me, intrigue me, seduce me and open my creative potentials. Lisbon has done that to me instantly. I must thank my friends in Goa and Lisbon and Mr. Bruni’s article that helped me to shape my first project on Den-City Series." LISBON IMPACT is Devi’s first part of a body of art works based on the face of Lisbon, highlighting the impact the city had on him as an artist, especially its appearance. It is not an exact representation of the cityscape; instead it is his child-like vision he holds in his inner world. LIBSON IMPACT depicts the way he experienced the city by being and living there, witnessing it from his own perspectives.
As per the work process, during his first visit to the city, he aimlessly wondered and wandered, walked and traveled for several hours and days and let himself be seduced by the city and its charm. He fell in love with Lisbon instantly due to the way the city revealed itself to him and the amount of experiential offerings it presented him with. Devi could immediately grasp her aesthetically unique character of density: its curves and corners, moving and static elements, bright and vivid colors, dense but unique skylines, water body, dance of lanes over the seven hills, crowd of tile roofs and chimneys, symmetry of doors and windows, columns of walls and stairs. Experiencing them personally made the artist in Devi overjoyed like a child.
Initially, Devi started documenting his works with analog black and white pictures along with building what he calls his visual dictionary in the form of mixed media drawings and sketches. Later, once he felt content, he started studying his own intuitively created visual dictionary to further develop his actual body of canvas paintings, watercolor miniatures and a video installation.
His works depicts special characters, identities and elements of city of Lisbon in a fusion of abstract and realism. He deliberately creates an illusion of realism, perspective, 2-D and 3-D aspects though innumerable black and selective white lines along with dots on patches of colors to portray his vision of the city. However, he redefines the city to satisfy his need of creating his own signature style imageries.
Mixed media drawings and sketches are the foundation of all his creations. LISBON IMPACT represents his selected intuitive drawings to guide an onlooker through the origin of his entire body of creation. They possess their own meaning, have their own grammar, idioms and phrases, which make his creations more interesting and full of substance.
His canvas paintings are the significant part of LISBON IMPACT and are again divided into 5 different segments. His fascination with electric tram and density knitted around it as well as its historical presence in Lisbon is a unique identity to the city and he calls it as Tram Travel. The second part is called Lisbon skyline, which depicts the crowded skyline of city he saw from Tagus River and from the opposite shore of Lisbon, especially from Cristo. The third part is called as Doors and Windows that shows how much these static and overpowering elements drew the attention of artist. The fourth one is called Maps, painted in the form of a birds eye view of city – one that Devi had in his vivid memories at various times, recalling different moods the city offered. The fifth one is named as Lisbon Cityscape is created using few historical references or identities of the city. They are abstract paintings showing different realistic perspectives to the onlooker. In fact, the viewer can find his own visions in each work.
Another significant part of LISBON IMPACT is Lisbon Minutiae; watercolor and pen on paper miniatures, Devi illustrates the notion of the city in painstaking detail. They are firmer, defined with repeated but ordinary patterns on top of colors that impacted him in Lisbon. His color pallet remained within the colors he experienced in Lisbon. Yet, he used them in a more subtle way to define his own Lisbon.
LISBON IMPACT has yet another element to it – Devi’s b/w analog photography. In this body of work draws upon his experience as a Photo Journalist and uses his tools of gathering data, forming an integral part of this creation. An important aspect of his photography is that they are all created using 30-plus year old ‘Canon AE-1’ camera and 40-plus year old Polish ‘Krokus 66’ enlarger on contemporary photo papers. Surprisingly, for the first time Devi develops negatives and prints on his own. The result of his work is that he could show present-day Lisbon as good as mid 20th century Lisbon.
The LISBON IMPACT video installation is a virgin attempt of Devi as for the first time in his life as artist he created a film as part of an art project. He complies random video clips that he has taken using an SLR camera as he was walking across the city or traveling with friends in their car to capture the memories of the city. He provides in this installation a moving imagery of Lisbon that constituted as important part of his entire body of work on a canvas textured visual using a Fado titled Barco Negro in the background that was sung by his friend and Goa-based Fado singer Sonia Shirsat.
"LISBON IMPACT is just the beginning of my journey into Lisbon. I have still more to discover and intends to continue my journey into the depths of Lisbon and find my new imageries there" says Devi to convey a message that there is still more to come from him to show the world different dimensions of his own Lisbon.
- Sofia Muller e Sousa
Wrote this Foreword for LISBON IMPACT solo exhibition
held at MUSEU DO ORIENT, Lisbon,