Communicating graphic themes with the tender medium of embroidery, Theegulla Venkanna has gained the reputation of being exciting, versatile, and unconventional in equal measure. Born 1980 in Gajwel, Telangana, Venkanna lives and works in Baroda. Through his powerful, virulent imagery, he explores a repressed society's deepest desires and its manifestations touching on themes like sexuality, gender, sexual violence and rage.
Venkanna has had many solo shows called AS I AM, LOVE ME, Tradition/Transformation, Looking for Peace, Nero and CELEBRATION. His work has also been exhibited at curated shows in multiple cities in India as well as in London, Taiwan, Switzerland, Paris, Prague and Italy.
The temples of Khajuraho is known for carnal sculptures portraying an eroticism that no other religion has dared to represent. Yet modern India, in its regions or through the pressure of the religious extremisms, has certainly become the most conservative and prude of the major democracies. Venkanna’s work frees itself from these prohibitions. He tracks down the most exuberant sexual phantasmagoria pushing the exaggeration to burlesque, to tragedy. What seduces beyond these carnivalesque visions (life and death walking hand in hand) is the plastic sensitivity, the artistic quality, and the constant inventiveness of this work.
His art contains shadows of Hieronymus Bosch's style interpreting sin, lust and the deviance of carnal pleasures focusing on queer non-reproductive sexuality with a delicacy that flirts with the madness and pornography that borders on sacrosanctity. He also likes to draw a connection between mankind and nature through sexuality.
“In his works - the depiction of violence and sexual appetites are used as tropes to examine far-reaching concerns. The longings, pleasures and frustrations wrought by love, the awareness that gender does not derive naturally from the biological sex of the individual. The representation of sexual exuberance and varied ways to love – all manifestations of potent life energy that a society striving for control frequently seeks to dispel,” writes Sonia Nazareth of Venkanna’s work in her catalogue essay.
Naturally known for his wicked sense of humour, Venkanna inserts several puns into the landscape of desire that is rife with imagery of verdant lush gardens, suggestive fruits and tropical vegetation that provide the perfect backdrop where his protagonists may gambol in freedom, giving expression to that which is pleasurable, sexual and experimental. His work reveals aspects of life that a ‘rational’ society might like to conceal.
The artist has long explored how alienation, boredom and fetishism are becoming default states in an affluent consumer society. The raw honesty of his characters works as an intellectual stimulant to unveil the vibrancy of human spirit that would fly untethered if it weren't for laws and shameful customs. Venkanna expands the realm of sexuality to encompass the epic and the mythological where the boundaries of identity and gender melt down to expressions of self.