“You can’t differentiate art”: Shailesh BR

Juggling with the diversity of art and complexity of machines, Shailesh BR creates artworks appealing to all generations by connecting everyday activities with philosophical concepts in layman terms

Creating art that portrays day-to-day life by connecting the inner and outer world, artist Shailesh BR captures the audience with his eccentric artworks. He connects his observations, moods and feelings through objects, animals, places and landscapes. Most of his work serves as a blueprint that explores the kinetic and sculptural nature of his imagination. 

Growing up in a traditional household in Karnataka, Shailesh learned Sanskrit for years before experimenting with art. The influence of Sanskrit is evident in his work with the inclusion of concepts like Tarka Shastra (law of understanding the world), Vedanta (end of Vedas) and buddhi (intelligence).

“I never thought I would do something like this. My father was a priest, so eventually I also had to follow the same path. I was curious from the beginning about how idols are created. People worship the creation of artists. The fact that artists have this imaginary space, that kind of attitude inspired me”, said Shailesh when asked about his initial interest in art. 

At the age of 24, Shailesh turned his career towards art. He completed his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Art (CAVA), Mysore and post-graduate diploma from Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda. He is a recipient of Foundation of Indian Contemporary Art’s ‘Emerging Artist’ award and travelled to Switzerland for a residency.

Shooting Stars collection.

Shailesh’s drawings are a collaboration of a collage-making process and blueprints. His method of work includes watercolour, gum tape, gift wrappers, pen and ink to create the drawings, along with the use of routine objects to configure philosophical elements through mechanical objects. Drawing inspirations from Sanskrit manuscripts, Indian artist Binode Bihari Mukherjee and French artist Henry Matisse, he uses the element of text in his artworks.

At times, random texts are also added to the art work. His works unapologetically reject any grammatical precision. He uses honest artistic wonder as the premise of his works, exploring how errors are made through an artist’s perception. His works establish connections between the complex philosophical thoughts through mechanical means. Following his own concepts, he decodes the purpose and function of everyday objects around him.

Prayer machine- The Last Brahmin solo exhibition

“I feel you can’t differentiate art. Every artist has their own artistic excellences. I do enjoy a lot of work by Indian artists like Shilpa Gupta, NS Harsha, LN Tallur. As an emerging artist, I really do enjoy every artist’s work”, said Shailesh, when asked to pick any one favourite artist. As a mixed media artist, Shailesh brings out the essence of art, rituals and philosophical thought through visual vocabulary.

His latest solo exhibition, ‘Shooting Stars’ is presented virtually at Vadehra Art Gallery. It exhibits his encounter with shooting stars at Himalayas in 2017. He uses a painterly and collage-making approach to depict the movement of comets. As a child, he used to collect atlas, which was the base of his 2021 collection, Mapmaking. He explores the mechanical nature of construction, from physical artificiality to how we cognise our thinking. 

In ‘Parable’, Shailesh continues to find his connection between the inner world and outer world. In these studies, he also ventures into Vedanta, exploring the nature of intelligence by finding the meaning of the objects surrounding us. Moreover, he has other untitled collections, which explore the relationship of objects in our routine consumption through his college making technique and story-telling approach.

Inspired by crafts and origami, the 35-year-old artist says his major area of work is kinetic sculptures. During his higher education days, he was fascinated by mechanics, which led to the path of kinetic installations. He uses complex machines and then simplifies it to create blueprints for representational purposes. 

In Image: Shailesh BR

Shailesh’s collection of kinetic sculptures is an attempt to find the meaning other than the physical realm of the object. ‘Clock Hands’ is a mixed media work in which he used clock hands from different timepieces and questioned its uses in our daily life. His other kinetic sculptures include ‘Rainbow Machine’, ‘Earthquake Machine’, ‘Philosophy Machine’, ‘Drawing Machine’ and so on.  

Shailesh’s solo exhibition ‘The Last Brahmin’ was held at Villa Arson in Nice, France, in 2020. Through the installations, he tries to reveal the layers of caste practices and Brahmanical rituals. With the borders being closed due to the pandemic, he had to stay in France for a while. In his Vasanta series, which was created in response to the lockdown, he depicts the anxiety of not knowing what is going to happen in the near future, the unclarity of life ahead and anticipating answers in the form of spring. 

Melting Lotus – The Last Brahmin solo exhibition.

The pandemic has adversely affected every artist and their work, and Shailesh happens to be one such artist. He couldn’t do much work because of the unavailability of materials and restrictions on movement. However, he did work on certain spontaneous ideas through drawings, paper cuttings and origami. 

Other than his latest exhibition, he was the participant of Sri Lankan interdisciplinary arts festival Colomboscope curated by Natasha Ginwala. “I wasn’t able to go as I tested positive for Covid. The festival will be exhibiting at Abu Dhabi, and hopefully I can go”, says the artist. The artist is currently looking forward to his upcoming show with Raza foundation which celebrates 100 years of late Sayed Haider Raza.

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