Ramesh Gorjala’s paintings remind us of the intertexuality of Indian myths, multiple stories within a tale, many images ensconced within one. Born in 1979, in Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh to a family of weavers, Ramesh Gorjala learnt the traditional Kalamkari art as a child from his uncle, Balaji Theertham, a national award winning Kalamkari artist. Gorjala’s art reflects the early impressions of being in the midst of an art practiced for generations in his village, where there is a depiction of the mythological characters and stories on textile parchments as well as walls and scrolls. The hues and colours that we find in Gorjala’s paintings is also a testimony to this early influence: earthy reds and greens interspersed with washed browns and sandalwood shades, the combinations are inspired from the Kalamkari traditions.
Gorjala left his training in commerce midway to pursue art, receiving his BFA and MFA degrees in Painting from JNTU, Hyderabad. It is here that Gorjala moves from the use of vegetable dyes to using acrylic as a medium. Post his BFA days, he travelled to Delhi and Bombay, to soak in the art of veterans and also proceeds to train under artists like Fawad Tamkanath and Laxman Aaley. Ramesh Gorjala has on multiple occasions expressed his deep gratitude for the creative guidance of artists like Thotta Vaikuntam and Surya Prakash. Gorjala’s remarkable body of work has won him many awards, including the 2000 Mahatma Gandhi Birth Centenary Memorial Award from the Victoria Technical Institute (V.T.I.), Chennai, and the 2002 State Award from the A.P. Crafts Council.
Ramesh Gorjala was inspired by the figures of Indian epics and one can trace his use of recurring mythic figures in his artlike Vishnu, Krishna, Hanuman and Kamadhenu among others. But his depictions of these epic figures are unique in the dense depiction of multiple narratives, figures and texts within the main icon. In his own words “The beauty of mythology lies in telling a story in a way that engages people. I was fascinated with drawing Hanuman and Krishna. When I began, I realized that many artists have drawn Gods and Goddesses earlier. So I started incorporating innumerable figures within the outlines of Hanuman or Krishna and thus narrating different stories.” The folk is also interwoven into the contemporary in his acrylic works on canvas and handmade paper.
For example his canvas Sita Ram, while has the large figures of Sita and Ram, their bodies are like a parchment painting in itself with depictions of episodes from Ramayana like the Sita kalyanam, Maricha as a golden deer luring Rama deep into the forests, the ardent devotion of Hanuman and the menacing ten-headed Ravana. Such inscription of multiple images within a whole is a reflection of our grand epics themselves, each story unique and complete in its own, but feeding into a larger narrative. The background of these main icons is also interesting with art that resembles paintings done with the kalam, the motifs easily recognizable from the kalamkari tradition. Gorjala also uses the chequered-board pattern in the background in shades of white, black and grey that again has influences of the textile traditions from South India.
Having a huge appeal among the art lovers, Ramesh Gorjala’s art is well sought out for its South Asian ethos. His collectors include many including Beyonce and Narendra Modi, who requested him for a depiction of Kamadhenu, the symbol of wealth, joy and luck in Gorjala’s signature style. Gorjala’s solo ‘Samarpan’ which Gallerie Splash had the opportunity to conceptualize and host in 2016 was a sold-out show. Gorjala has also now expanded his expertise to wooden carvings and wooden relief sculptures as well. While Gorjala is a frequent visitor to Hyderabad, he prefers the tranquilly of Tirupati for his creative endeavors and currently works from this temple town.