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In praise of trees

For Hyderabad-based artist Bhaskara Rao Botcha, trees are culturally significant emblems, deeply embedded in Indian mythological narratives as well as occupying sacred roles TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE

The tree is perhaps one of the most powerful symbols possible, evoking meaning and emotion in cultures across the world. From the symbolism of the olive branch to that of the mighty oak, from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden to one’s own family tree, it is hard to deny the influence of the arboreal. It is unsurprising, then, that so many artists have made use of trees in their work. Whether as a focus of the piece in their own right, as part of a wider landscape or even as a complement to portraiture, trees are rooted firmly in artistic history. For those without an artistic bent, the tree might seem to be an overly simple subject. However, to the artistic eye, they offer a fascinating, lively and challenging subject. “The tree form has become the core element of my works,” says Hyderabad-based artist Bhaskara Rao Botcha, whose connection and fondness for trees goes back to his childhood days spent in Salur, a small town in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh. “My father is a farmer and he has a farm of cashews and mangoes in my village. He once took me to plant a small mango tree when I was in Class 4. I started going to the fields to watch the plant grow and this is how I developed the love for nature,” he says. Botcha, who’s inspired by English landscape painter John Constable and Dutch master Vincent van Gogh, Kalal Laxma Goud and G. Ravinder Reddy, his teacher M. Venkat Rao and professor V. Ramesh, says his earlier series assimilated widespread, vast landscapes with land, water bodies and skies. He experimented with figurative art, streetstyle art and then landscapes but gradually and eventually, the tree form has become the core element of his works. He says his trees are culturally significant emblems, deeply embedded in Indian mythological narratives as well as occupying sacred roles. Further, they assume important roles within the physical landscape, not only yielding fruits but providing shade, as well as covering and protecting the earth’s surface. “On a broader scale, my work reflects an innate bond between trees and people of our country in the form of worship and as an emblem of auspiciousness.,” he says. Rendering trees in myriad mediums, he keeps returning each time with a new vision. He notes, “In black and white, sombre grays or bright primary coolers, the tree stands out resplendently, a sentinel to remind me of the havoc… to cause on the sacred face of the earth in our pursuit of selfish interests.”Talking about the spiritual link between him and his subject, Botcha says according to Indian mythology, trees or vrikshas were the offspring of Anala, who was married to the great sage Kashyapa. “They have a great significant role in our cultural landscape for they not only yield fruits but provide shade as well and cover and protect the earth’s surface and have come to assume over the years even a sacred role,” he informs. “My leitmotif has remained constant as part of my oeuvre over the years in my career as a painter. At a cursory glance at my body of work, though it may appear that seems to be involved and articulating my ideas through my vision of a landscape, it is primarily the image of the tree which stands out.” Botha, who started drawing when he was 10 years old, however, says, “Trees are not valued for their being by humans nowadays. Tree has always bestowed us with fruits, oxygen, shelter, medicines and tools. They contribute in many ways to the environment by improving climate and air quality, preserving life-saving water, improving soil fertility level, and reinforcing wildlife, to name a few. We need to learn and understand the great value of trees in our life and need to plant more trees to make our earth a better place to live.” He says he always portrays his tree to make people feel happy. “Observing is a gift and observing nature is an example of a beautiful soul,” he says, adding, “Look at the tree, its branches and leaves. Every leaf tells a secret. It’s no less than poetry It looks simply but it requires precision and patience to paint the silent poetry and beautiful eyes to see nature in a different perception. With strong roots and colorful leaves, the tree of life gives us an example of enchanting nature.” Currently, Botcha is working for his upcoming show at Art Revolution Taipei, in Taiwan, in May, and a major show later in Paris.

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