From tradition to modernity: how this insurance surveyor collects, curates and promotes art in Mangaluru

In this photo essay, we showcase indoor and outdoor artworks at the Kadri Rocks Art Gallery, along with founder insights.

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Located on Kadri Kambla Road, Mangaluru, the Kadri Rocks Art Gallery was launched by Harsha D’souza on February 17, 2019. Harsha is an insurance surveyor who channeled his love for art into a gallery in his parents’ heritage home. The name 'Kadri Rocks' is inspired by the large rocks in the neighbourhood, and the tagline is ‘Where Art and Heritage Meet.’

“The vision behind founding Kadri Rocks Art Gallery was to showcase culture and architecture,” explains Harsha, in a chat with YourStory. “The idea is to bring back memories of the decades gone by, when the whole of Dakshina Kannada was full of paddy fields and the culture, customs and religion revolved around agricultural activities,” he adds.

Some local art forms are becoming extinct as they are not remunerative and the new generation is not learning the skills, Harsha cautions. “We intend to put our efforts to revive them. While some visitors can easily refresh their memories, others can learn about the local culture via the artworks on display,” he explains.

The indoor collection includes paintings, photographs, pottery, ceramics, lamps, installations, and digital works, as well as an imitation cannon and a mermaid sculpture in the lawns outside. (Note: These photographs were taken before the national lockdown due to corona virus, and the visit to the gallery was not in violation of any public safety guidelines.)

The 500 works are collected from Harsha’s travels across India, from Kerala to Bengal. Some are kept for display while others are for sale. The artworks are priced between Rs 100 and Rs 35,000, depending on the rates fixed by the artist.

“Art to me is a form of expression. An artist can express feelings, ideas and skills through a piece of art. When there’s a collection of art on display, it is like music to the soul,” Harsha enthuses.

Artistic spaces help to unwind and relax, and transport people to a different world, helping them forget their worries. “Art is therapeutic for the artist as well as art lover,” Harsha says.

A number of exhibitions and art camps have been held at the gallery, including one where 24 artists created works of art on the spot. Activity themes have been mandala art, photography, water colours, clay lamp making, and local art forms.

Harsha identifies a number of trends in Indian art. “In the rural areas, people look for realistic art. In urban areas, people look for realistic as well as abstract art. Corporate and public spaces look for traditional and realistic art equally,” he observes.

There is demand for religious art in homes and for pooja rooms, in the form of sculptures, images and paintings. “People want to showcase their culture at home or in their workplace. There is also growing importance to art in public spaces like walls, streets, parks, and offices,” Harsha adds.

He says he has only started in this artistic journey. “When people come to visit the gallery and feel happy, enlightened or relaxed, it is an encouragement for me. The art gallery displays some of my own collection and also gives a space for people to express their own art and enjoy the environment,” he proudly says.

The artist lineup includes Ganesh Somayaji, Dinesh Holla, Sapna Noronha, Koti Prasad Alva, Vishnu Shevgoor, Glen DSouza, Kiran Joan, Dr Darren Mascarenhas, Nikhil Shetty, Sayyed Farvez, Ranjan Saralaya, Jeevan Acharya, Rajesh Shetty, and Sharath Holla.

Harsha is proud of the feedback received so far. “The visitors find the place very interesting, and the artworks of good quality. Some works are of budding and young artists, who appreciate the exposure for their art,” he says.

Future plans this year include starting regular art classes. “We want to install more water features to encourage artists who do garden architecture and sculptures,” Harsha adds.

He urges audiences to observe the quality of the art and proficiency of the artist. In the case of abstract art, they should explore the ideas of the artist before forming their own opinions.

He also offers tips for aspiring artists. “Aspiring artists must learn from master artists. They have many skills and ideas that can make any art better. In addition, presentation of any art work is very important,” Harsha advises.

He calls for more appreciation of art in India, and dialogue between artists and audiences. “Art appreciation can be improved if artists explain their art. They must explain their ideas, people love new concepts,” Harsha advises. This can help create a thriving ecosystem for art and make it a sustainable and lucrative sector.

“Rural and small town artists can also do art for commercial spaces, offices and public spaces to get noticed and recognised,” Harsha recommends. “Traditional artisanal forms like basket weaving, pottery, and textile weaving should be saved from neglect and extinction,” he urges. Most of these artists are in their 60s and 70s.

“If these art forms are not revived with better commercial prospects, they will die within a few years,” Harsha cautions.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and do your bit to appreciate and promote the treasures of artistic heritage?

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