Friday, Sep 19, 2014

A Stroke of Genius: How this autistic painter rose to fame

autism_m Srinivas Vikram with his mother Karuna Gopal.
New Delhi | Posted: August 4, 2014 12:03 am | Updated: August 4, 2014 10:38 am

By Suyash Gabriel

Bold colours subtly woven together, radiate delicately, lending a touch of vibrancy to the plain walls of the US Embassy in Hyderabad. The artist, who was inspired by bamboo shoots in particular for these paintings, was asked by the consulate for a collection of his work when he was only a 17-year-old. While this painter, Srinivas Vikram is naturally gifted, art for him began more as a form of therapy to help cope with his uncontrollable mood swings and seizures. This is because Vikram is autistic.

The 21-year-old has been dabbling with paints since he was a child, but was never formally trained. “His teacher tried to discipline him and teach him techniques, but he was always a bit resistant. I didn’t want Vikram to be stifled and wanted him to have a free hand,” says his mother, Karuna Gopal, who is both an entrepreneur and an artist herself. When Vikram had to stop swimming because of his epilepsy, Gopal and her sister, Vasuprada Kartic, a psychotherapist and special educator, began music and art therapy as a substitute. “I am still not sure if Vikram is able to express himself or his experience of the world in a way that he wants to,” she says.

Vikram, who started out using brushes and tubes, now uses anything from rollers and scrubs, and even ear buds or ladles from the kitchen. With mature strokes and intelligently conceptualised ideas, Vikram’s acrylic paintings are an inventive amalgamation of abstract art intertwined with subtle yet detailed depictions of the things that inspire him.

“Vikram goes through phases where he gets obsessed and likes to paint only certain things. His collection on bamboo shoots has been very well received, and so has his ‘God’ collection,” says Gopal. His striking portrayals of Lord Ganesh and Lord Krishna in his “God” collection exemplify his delicate approach to art, with abstract yet accurate impressions within a framework of deftly used colours.

His bamboo paintings exhibit a flurry of colours that accompany the symmetry of his vivid depictions of bamboo shoots. “He loves being outside, and gets a lot of his inspiration from what he sees around him,” says Gopal. Vikram held his first exhibition in February 2012 titled “the cosmic codes” in Hyderabad, where almost all his paintings were sold. He has since had a solo in Seattle, US, last year, and has sold a number of his paintings internationally.

Vikram and Gopal are currently working on a new collection of collaborative paintings, which she hopes will be ready by October this year. “Our next exhibition will demonstrate a fusion of both our paintings,” says Gopal. “Eclectic” is the theme for the next exhibition, because she wants to give Vikram the freedom to work under a broad subject. But she adds, “He never sticks to a theme, yet always produces something beautiful.”

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