A Lifelong Tryst with Art: Gurudas Shenoy’s Love for Colours, Stories and PlacesCreators And Collectors
From abstract interpretations of cities that left a mark on him, to anecdotes about the time he spent with M. F. Husain, Gurudas Shenoy has a penchant for sharing delightful stories, whether on canvas or through his words. With his warm personality and passion for art, Gurudas Shenoy has, over the years, become an eminent figure in the Bangalore art scene, and his modernist artworks have made their way into many exhibits, including several solo shows at the prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai.
Born into Art
For Gurudas Shenoy, it could easily be said that he lived and breathed art since the day he was born. His father, G. S. Shenoy, was a renowned artist and an art activist, who changed the face of art in Karnataka with the establishment of the South Kanara Art Council (SKAC) and the Shrungar Art Gallery, in Udupi. His father’s work at the gallery, and all the art festivals that he would organize, brought Gurudas into contact with many artists, writers and musicians from a young age.
And so it came as no surprise that Gurudas was artistically inclined, which he discovered when he was quite young. “My first work of art was very spontaneous,” recounts Gurudas, “I was only in the 4th standard and I had this teacher who wasn’t very nice to students. I drew a beautiful Ganesha with some of my father’s coloured chalks and gave the picture to her, hoping that God would make her nice to me! It was the first artwork I ever made, and it just came to me so easily.” After this incident, his dabbles in art became more frequent and he even snuck into his father’s art classes a few times, painting still-life with the other students. He was eventually noticed by his father in the classroom, who then began teaching him formally.
Art and Places
Gurudas Shenoy was born and raised in Udupi, a town in South Karnataka flanked by the Arabian Sea on one side and the Western Ghats on the other. Surrounded by lush chrome green trees, burnt sienna soil and azure waters, he developed a passion for colours, which manifested in his attempts to capture the scenic beauty of his hometown, through his watercolour landscapes.
A 2002 watercolour landscape by Gurudas Shenoy
When Gurudas moved to Baroda to study at the prestigious MS University Faculty of Fine Arts, the old buildings and gulleys of the city became charcoal sketches and woodcut prints. Every city Gurudas travelled to, became a muse for his art, from the ever-changing streets of Bangalore, which eventually became his home, to scenes from Europe. The fascination with places and surroundings became a lifelong love for Gurudas Shenoy, expressed in many of his paintings, including his most known body of work, the ‘cityscape’ series. “I have realized, while travelling from one city to another, that every city has a character of its own. That is what inspires my paintings,” says Gurudas.
An earlier woodcut print by Gurudas Shenoy
The M. F. Husain Days
A defining part of Gurudas Shenoy’s journey as an artist, has been his association with the legendary artist, M. F. Husain. Husain was a close friend of Gurudas Shenoy’s father, and an occasional visitor at their Bangalore home. “I called him ‘Baba’, out of the love and affection I have for him,” he reminisces. When Gurudas came back to Bangalore after graduating from Baroda, M.F. Husain happened to be looking for a young artist to take care of his museum and gallery in Bangalore. Gurudas applied for the job, seeing the learning opportunities that it would open for him. “What Baba told me then, really reflected his sensitivity as an artist. He said he didn’t mind giving me the job, but he did not want to ruin my career. So he hired me, but on the condition that I would continue to paint while working there!”, recalls Gurudas.
Gurudas Shenoy with M. F. Husain
Gurudas Shenoy served as the curator of the ‘Husain Sankalana’ in Bangalore from 1991 till its closing in 2008, working directly under Husain to organize art shows and cultural events where artists from all walks would convene. “I have been extremely blessed to have had access to such great artists, first through my father, and then through Husain Saab and the museum,” says Gurudas.
A Style of His Own
With big names like his father and M.F. Husain as mentors in his early years, developing his own artistic style was not easy for Gurudas Shenoy. “If your father is a great artist, everyone is going to compare your work to his. His work really influenced me when I was starting out, especially his focus on watercolours” says Gurudas. To find his own place in art, Gurudas Shenoy began to experiment with other mediums and techniques, such as woodcuts, while he was a student in Baroda. He enjoyed working with different mediums, and that is what attracted him to murals. Today, his murals are well-known, decorating the walls of buildings for organizations such as ISRO, BEL and Intel.
Gurudas Shenoy's mural at the Intel office in Bangalore
Eventually, Gurudas found his niche in painting as well, creating a distinct style with his brilliantly hued portraits of places, where lines and light combine, to express his constant love for his surroundings. And while his artistic journey has taken him through several mediums, it is painting with oil that Gurudas enjoys the most. “I’ve always loved watercolours for their transparency. And with a lot of experimentation, I have managed to create a watercolour-like lightness in my oil paintings, which have many layers built with multiple tones.”
Gurudas Shenoy painting in his studio
Continuing the Legacy
Gurudas Shenoy is extremely grateful for the groundwork that people like his father have laid for artists in the next generation. Inspired by these efforts and seeing the need for them to be continued, Gurudas and his wife Amita, have started the Shenoy Art Foundation to support upcoming artists. The foundation has a small fund, and an independent committee of judges selects artists to whom awards are handed out each year, to encourage young talent. “It’s a humble effort, but we are very serious about it,” says Gurudas.
The Impact of Art
With all his artistic achievements and connections in the art world, Gurudas Shenoy possesses an inspiring humility and an attitude towards art that is astonishingly simple. He recalls an experience at Jehangir Art Gallery, where a corporate manager would visit his show every single day, and just stand in front of the same painting. When Gurudas spoke to him, he found that the young man couldn’t afford the artwork, but felt a deep connection to it. Once the exhibition was over, Gurudas sold the painting to him for a lower price. “He came with his entire family to buy the painting. I couldn’t believe that something I had created could be so important to someone,” recalls Gurudas.
It’s moments like these that the artist lives for; moments when his art becomes a source of joy. And through his murals, canvasses and the Foundation, Gurudas Shenoy wants to give more of this joy to the world.