‘I paint every single day’
The self taught artist talks about his first and only love, art. He paints every single day, and travels around seven times a year, solely for art.
In 1988, Prashanth Prabhu, fresh out of school, held his first exhibition outside Jahangir Gallery in Mumbai. Prabhu did not have any big dreams of becoming a professional artist then, in fact he knew his next move. A commerce degree, and then a post graduation in Commerce, which is what he went on to do. But little did the young boy, standing in front of one of the biggest galleries in India, then, know that the future held different plans for him. But on that particular sunny day, the universe did give him a sign. An artwork of his, a painting of Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain, got sold for Rs. 65 ($1).
The person who bought that painting from him passed away a couple of years ago, but through out his life, he had continued buying Prabhu’s artwork. The latest one was sold at close to Rs. 40,000 (around $600).
As an artist, he has come a long way, he admits. His works are known internationally, a couple of them have been selected by the Royal Watercolors Society, London; and in London Art Fair.
“The journey however, was not easy. Just learning the techniques took a lot of time, as I did not go to an art school,” he says over a call from his studio in Matunga, Mumbai. Throughout his college, though he was earning a degree in Commerce, he dedicated his days to doing artworks, participated in art festivals, inter-college competitions, and by the time of graduation, he was absolutely certain that he didn’t want to have anything to do with Commerce. So unlike his peers, instead of looking for jobs, he bought more colors, paintbrushes, and papers.
With the enthusiasm of a kid, he dabbled with all mediums and styles, and slowly let go of what he felt he was not good at, and that which he did not enjoy thoroughly. He had the support of his mentor Vasudeo Kamath, a popular Indian artist. “But my works were not influenced by my mentor’s (or artists such as William Turner and Andrew Wyeth who he adores),” he says. Kamath was well-known for his portraits; he has done one of the former President of India Pratibha Patil. “But I realized that I was not good at portraits…” says Prabhu candidly. He soon found his calling in landscapes.
He traveled to the Himalayas; the stretch from Ladakh to Bhutan; to Tawang in North East India, to Gingee Fort in Tamil Nadu, and Hampi in Karnataka among other places. All for art. While in some places, he painted live on the spot, in some others, he captured the beauty of the place in photos, and poured it out on paper in the comfort of his studio. His paintings are minimalist. That, he says, might have a lot to do with the kind of person he is. What kind is that? we ask.
He gives a flashback of the days when he had just started out. Full of youth and vigor, he was slowly being swallowed by the competition that existed in the art world. It was his mentor who had asked him to halt for a second, and think about what kind of artist he wanted to become. Was he in it just for the competition, or did he want more?
In pursuit of answers, the young Prabhu took up Osho meditation, which brought about a change in his lifestyle. “I stopped being part of the several art groups and became more thoughtful as an artist,” he says. “Osho says that god and creation are not different. It’s the same with art and artist, isn’t it?” he explains.