Colours and curries

Indian artist spices up ambience in restaurants with evocative wall art

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Many recent paintings by Adelaide-based artist Shruti Ashutosh Yelleshwaram reach commanding heights, and not only because of her obvious artistic talent: Shruti has created her eye-catching art work on the walls of a number of Indian restaurants in the city.

Shruti Ashutosh Yelleshwaram.Indian Link

I had seen a couple of Shruti’s wall creations before I met her. I came across a particularly attractive mural in the banquet hall of the popular restaurant Chennai Palace in Walkerville. So, it was a fortunate turn of fate that our paths crossed soon after.

I imagine Shruti getting up on stools, tables, chairs and sometimes even high ladders to carry out her creative job. I am intrigued: how does she manage to keep her balance while creating art on the vertical spread of the walls?

“It was quite challenging,” Shruti confesses. “I had to be mindful of keeping my physical balance, and simultaneously concentrate on maintaining visual equilibrium on the large surface I was working on.”

Looking at the scale of her creations, I am even more surprised to learn that Shruti has never received any formal training in art, either in her childhood days in Muscat or as a young adult in Mumbai. She is a natural artist, having inherited the creative genes from both sides of her family: her mother is a commercial artist, and her father is an architect who also has a good eye and hand for art.

Shruti Ashutosh Yelleshwaram.Indian Link

“During my formative years, my mother mentored me in drawing and painting. She encouraged me to experiment with many forms – water colours, oils and glass painting,” Shruti says.

In Shruti’s words, wall art is basically any art work on the wall that compliments the space. “The content can be human figures or something abstract or folksy, or forms from the natural world or cultural milieu,” she explains.

Shruti Ashutosh Yelleshwaram.Indian Link

Wall art is a novel form of creative expression, especially for a young artist fresh out of India, so I was curious to know how Shruti was drawn to it.

Shruti’s journey with wall art started only in early 2017, a short while after she migrated from Mumbai to Adelaide in December 2016, following her husband who was already working here. “The head of a family I knew approached me to paint a tree on a blank drawing room wall. They wanted to use it as a backdrop for hanging the family’s photo frames,” Shruti recalls.

Shruti Ashutosh Yelleshwaram.Indian Link

Shruti visualised a sturdy tree in warm colours, its leaf-laden branches stretching out, symbolising a caring and growing family, and her first wall art endeavour was soon executed. The family was delighted with her creation and Shruti got to taste her first success in a new artistic direction. “Given how nervous I was while creating the work, I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction,” the artist says. This set the ball rolling for her.

Shortly afterwards, Shruti got her first contract for painting on a restaurant wall. Word-of-mouth about her talent got around, and she got many more similar engagements. She executed them with remarkable flair and confidence, creating a much-admired permanent public art exhibition for herself.

She has even painted up an ancient and defunct car on request. It now serves as a colourful outdoor seating for a restaurant.

Shruti Ashutosh Yelleshwaram.Indian Link

“Since I paint mostly in venues catering to food, I like to depict happy human forms and alluring flora and fauna, besides traditional cultural motifs from India such as temples and musical instruments,” she says, explaining her themes. All the attributes that come to the mind when describing Shruti’s paintings on walls, are in fact qualities that Shruti possesses in her own persona: exuberant, attractive and warm. “I try to give each wall a customised look that exudes vibrancy, setting the mood the location wants to convey,” she adds.

Shruti confides that she gets emotionally attached to each creation after investing so much time, energy and creativity in bringing it to life. So every time she completes a painting, she feels she has left a piece of her own heart in it. “My husband has promised to take me out for dinner frequently, so I can feast my eyes on my art works,” she quips.

Shruti Ashutosh Yelleshwaram.Indian Link

Despite her success in the wall art scene, Shruti concedes that it cannot become a bread-and-butter opportunity for her, as the local demand remains rather sluggish. “I would describe this work as a semi-profession, but truly an engagement of passion,” she says.

For the present, Shruti is happy to pursue a regular job as editor of special event-related videos. And she has diversified into a promising new art field, of painting likenesses of beloved pet animals on canvas for her clientele. But that is another new chapter in this versatile artist’s life story.