Shivarama Chary, the man who turned found objects to art
The news of the passing away of sculptor Y Shivarama Chary on July 18 came as a shock to the Hyderabad art fraternity. During the lockdown, he had been busy at his ‘Sculpting Space’ workshop in Rajendranagar, Hyderabad, working on sculptures commissioned by art patrons. But COVID-19 had other plans. First, his mother tested positive and Shivarama Chary, or Shiva as his friends referred to him, was attending to her needs. She recovered after hospitalisation. But soon, Shiva tested positive. Those who knew him well disclose that in 2013, he had suffered a health setback that had weakened his lungs. That took a toll on him as he battled COVID-19. Shiva was 41, and is survived by his wife and two daughters, aged 11 and six.
He leaves behind an impressive line of work. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he was among the best sculptors in Hyderabad and his distinct contemporary installations in bronze, steel, wood and mixed media welcomed visitors at Kalakriti art gallery, adorned the T-Hub (Telangana’s biggest incubator for start-ups) and HYSEA (Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association) premises, among other institutions in Hyderabad and Telangana.
Artist Anand Gadapa breaks down recalling his association with Shiva since college days, and says it feels cathartic to talk about the late artist: “My wife Nirmala (Biluka) and I realised how close we have been to him, after his passing away.” Anand and a few close associates plan to complete the sculptures Shiva had been working on. “We informed those who had commissioned the art works that we will finish the job. The money will go to Shiva’s family,” says Anand. A few Hyderabad artists are also planning a tribute show as a fund-raiser to support the family.
Shivarama Chary was born in Telkapally mandal in Nagarkurnool district of Telangana. In a TEDx talk in December 2017, the artist reminisced how he learnt traditional sculpture techniques from his father Yarraginnela Jagadeeshwara Chary. When Shiva pursued a bachelor of fine arts (sculpture) at the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Hyderabad and a master of fine arts (sculpture) at the S N School of Fine Arts, University of Hyderabad (UoH), he began incorporating contemporary techniques. In the TEDx speech, the artist recalled his first attempt at contemporary art in the third year of graduation studies, when he made minimalist stone sculptures.
Scrap to art
It was UoH’s first MFA batch that Shiva had joined and the artist recalled how the art department had no special tools for sculpture, barring wax models. He scoured the campus and used stones, wooden panels from the department doors and other found objects.
Found objects continued to be a part of Shiva’s sculptures. Sculpting Space workshop used plenty of materials sourced from scrap yards.
In his early years as an artist, Shiva had the support of art patron Kiran Vadlamani, and founders of Kalakriti art gallery Prshant and Rekha Lahoti.
“We have known him since 2004. He actively participated in art camps and was never afraid of experimenting,” says Rekha, remembering him as a soft-spoken, kind-hearted artist who had a way with bronze and wood.
“Shiva and I came from humble backgrounds and when he had reached a certain stature in the art world, Shiva was keen that we helped other students,” recalls Anand.
Anand had known Shiva since 1999: “We would visit art shows; he and Nirmala would write their impressions of the work. Both Shiva and I did our schooling in Telugu medium and put in a lot of effort to communicate in English. We took up commercial jobs to pay bills and did everything we could to survive in Hyderabad. In 2002, a group of us shared studio space in Telecom Nagar (Gachibowli).”
Shiva had not only encouraged Anand to pursue higher studies in Baroda, but had also helped him financially. The duo later helped eight other students, with the help of art patrons.
Striking a deal
Anand remembers how Shiva came up with innovative ideas to get the work of new artists noticed. At the art camp Metaplasia in Saptaparni, Hyderabad, they pitched works of emerging artists as a package to buyers: “If you bought two or three works of emerging artists, you would get one work of an established artist for free. It worked, and senior artists were supportive of this initiative and helped by giving us their art works,” says Anand.
Laxman Aelay, a well-known artist based in Hyderabad, has observed Shiva’s evolution as an artist. “I first saw him as a student, when I was an external examiner. He was diligent at work. At that time, his sculptures were more traditional,” he recalls.
Shiva had stayed in touch with established and new artists and there were plans. “A group of us once gathered at a camp-fire meet. We started drawing using the charcoal there. We named our small group as ‘coal group’ and had planned to host art shows…,” Laxman trails off.
Shiva had also wanted to launch Sculpting Hands Foundation to help new artists with scholarships. “A few of us, including artists Masuram Ravikanth and Bharat, are working on this and plan to launch it soon to keep Shiva’s dream going,” says Anand, signing off.