COVID-19: How artists in Visakhapatnam have turned the pandemic into their muse

“It took a pandemic and the lockdown for me to realise who the real heroes of our society are. The ones that sweep our streets, clear our dumpsters, security services or help us with the household chores…” says Sangeeta Kodimyala, a Visakhapatnam-based artist.

A student of Andhra University’s Fine Arts Department, Sangeeta turned this realisation into a series of paintings of frontline workers at their job. “This is my way of appreciating their work and paying tribute to them,” she says. Six paintings hero a construction worker, vegetable vendor, three sanitation workers and a fisherwoman at work

A series of paintings about frontline workers by Sangeeta Kodimyala

A series of paintings about frontline workers by Sangeeta Kodimyala  
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From empty lanes, deserted markets to aftermaths of the lockdown, other artists too are capturing on canvas the effects of the pandemic.

Anita Rao, a student of AU’s Fine Arts Department, has used the time to experiment with various styles . She has painted a diptych showcasing two erupting volcanoes — depicting the good and the grim side of the world during the lockdown. The parts in blue bring out the bad part of the pandemic. Word like ‘deepening inequalities, recession, domestic violence, death toll and stranded are painted all over it. While the shades of yellow and red highlight the brighter side and celebrate words like ‘doctors, herd immunity, kindness, clean air, leisure painted in it. “For this work, I combined calligraphy and painting: two things that I enjoy doing. This was also my first attempt for negative painting, a type where you paint around the object. It took me six days to complete the painting,” says Anita.

As Anita’s balcony over looks the vast stretch of RK Beach, she has chronicled the rare calm of a landscape that usually buzzed with activity and crowds of people pre-lockdown. . “It is beautiful now, no blaring horns, only bird calls and clear skies. It would have been unfair to not paint this! I painted the view on a cloudy evening in an Impressionist style.”

Sangeeta believes that being home-bound is not completely a new for many artists. “I am used to spending a great amount of time alone with my thoughts. But the current scenario has made me pause and think, and introspect. Recently I sat down with my family and went through old photographs, and realised so much has changed within me in the past few decades. So to appreciate my journey I made a self-potrait that also includes the painting of me as a child ,” she adds.

A painting on a rolling pin by Sharmla Karri

For self-taught artist Sharmla Karri, the isolation has allowed her creativity to bloom. With very little art supplies in stock, the painter has taken to upcycling daily use objects on which she paints her thoughts. “A roller pin that for so long a part of our kitchen is now proudly displayed along with my other works as I used it to paint the portrait of a woman. Now I am eyeing an old pair of spectacles as my next canvas. Probably Ill have a ‘lockdown series’ exhibition where Ill display all these upcycled objects,” she laughs.

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