“Each time I look at my art, they speak to me differently,” says Muscat’s newest entry to the art scene.
Dheeraj Gadicherla, an artist from Bangalore, India, loves coffee but had to bargain to get the brew as a child. Years later, his love for coffee took him to the next level as he used them as a medium to paint his expressions.
Like others hit by the pandemic, Covid-19 was an eye opener for Dheeraj. Depressed with not having been with his family for long, his first solo art show in Muscat goes public with a unique theme of ‘mental illnesses’.
Skilled with portraits and architecture paintings, he wanted to create a series on mental illnesses inspired from the pandemic. ‘Brewed’ is the theme for his collection of work inspired by the impact this had on him for which he used local beans to brew a strong brew and use it for painting.
So Alzheimer’s, depression, dementia, PTSD, dyslexia, autism, psychosis and paranoia were portrayed as an artwork based on his imagination. He has used lots of layers of coffee in the artwork to show how intense the illness is and by using minimal text, tries to portray how they are lacking in realising the situation or acknowledging the issue.
“Borderline personality disorder is about how an individual perceives themselves and their life in a society. Every human being faces these issues one way or the other. I tried to show how this is universal in my artwork and how each person goes through it differently.”
One of the artworks on Alzhiemer’s disease was burnt in places to denote the disintegration of a patient’s mental capabilities, relationships and behaviours and finally the gaping hole to represent the void created.
Says Dheeraj: “Painting with coffee is catching up around the world but is not a mainstream medium. It is still treated as a hobby art. I wanted to take it a bit further and create abstract art with coffee. Art that could make people take a double take or instill a thought.”
Digital culture often paints a simplified picture of mental illness when in reality it is complex and layered.
“Through this show I attempt to peel these complex layers and lay them bare. I try to portray the rawness of the mental illnesses, sacrifices and compromises made by families. It’s about the void that can never be filled. Edges of the canvas are not tidied, to resemble these illnesses spilling over. Each painting takes almost a month to complete. I build the painting using multiple layers of coffee introduced in various states.”
Around 10 to 120 layers of coffee go into a painting. The longest I have had to work on a painting is 2 years and this painting will be on display at this exhibition.
Finnish artist Matti Sirvio who offered Dheeraj a solo show at his gallery hails Dheraj’s abstract work as the best with its earthy looking colour fields and diverse compositions.
“The fact that coffee is used as the media, brings it somehow closer to our daily life. With stirred up feelings it manages to create a platform where even deeper and more painful issues, such as mental and emotional disorders, can be safely faced.
Even the titles of his artworks make a strong statement about caring,” he explains.
The month-long conceptual art show on mental illnesses at Matti Sirvio Galleria, Jawharat Al Shatti Complex is from May 1-31.