Bright spots and shadow lines: Meet an artist who paints with sunlight - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Bright spots and shadow lines: Meet an artist who paints with sunlight

Aug 05, 2023 08:36 PM IST

Vignesh uses a magnifying glass to burn intricate patterns into wood. He came to this art form while ‘stuck in a dark tunnel’, he tells Tanisha Saxena.

Vignesh, 32, draws the outlines of his art on wood using pencil, then burns in the details, using a magnifying lens to concentrate sunlight.

Vignesh’s most intricate work so far is a replica of the 900-year-old elephant-and-bull optical illusion carved in stone at the Airavatesvara temple in Kumbakonam. PREMIUM
Vignesh’s most intricate work so far is a replica of the 900-year-old elephant-and-bull optical illusion carved in stone at the Airavatesvara temple in Kumbakonam.

Heliography is an unusual art form, and the story of how he got to it is an unusual one too. Vignesh (who goes by only one name), says he stumbled upon solar art “while stuck in a dark tunnel”.

Born in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu, he lost his mother when he was 23. R Karpagam was 45. Her death was sudden, and he didn’t get to say goodbye. He was working with a telecommunications company in Chennai at the time and came home shattered. He decided to stay, to care for his heartbroken father V Ramu, 55, a tailor.

Three years later, he developed intense back pain. He had to quit his job as a repairman with a local cable service. Day after day, as he lay in bed, “all kinds of negative thoughts took over. I was still processing the death of my mother. I felt submerged in darkness,” he says.

To give himself something to do, he began to draw. He experimented with pencil sculpture, 3D painting, hyper-realistic art. Then he came upon American solar artist Michael Papadakis, on YouTube. “Sunlight art…. I was completely fascinated,” Vignesh says.

‘Solar art put a full stop to my chain of negative thoughts,’ says Vignesh.
‘Solar art put a full stop to my chain of negative thoughts,’ says Vignesh.

He would later discover that some artists use lasers instead of lenses and mirrors. “But I wanted to hold on to the authenticity of the art form.”

So he began to step out of the house, amid the physiotherapy and pain medication. Solar art requires precision, and this helped him regain focus. Over time, the results gave him his self-confidence back, he says. “It put a full stop to my chain of negative thoughts.”

Since 2020, Vignesh has focused on celebrity portraits because he wants his work to be noticed online. “In no time, fan pages share my posts on their social media accounts,” he says. He now has more than 25,000 followers across Instagram (@vignesh_sunlight_artist; his primary platform), Twitter and Facebook. He is earning (about 65,000 for a family portrait); selling keychains via his social media accounts.

Larger commissions have been coming his way too. In December 2021, he was one of 11 artists across the state chosen by the promotional team of the Tamil film Rocky, to create posters that would be sold as NFTs. Vignesh’s was titled Hours of Shade and was auctioned for 1 lakh. (He got to keep about a third of the proceeds).

He still creates for pleasure too. His most intricate piece, one of his favourites, is a replica of the 900-year-old elephant-and-bull optical illusion carved in stone at the Airavatesvara temple in Kumbakonam. It took him a month to finish, largely because he began it in June and got hit by cloudy weather. “The painting has intricate details, so that was challenging too,” he says.

Typically, it takes him about three days to make an 8 inch x 12 inch portrait. (Landscapes take longer.)

Amid it all, he has found a new side hustle, as an art teacher. He plans to hold a summer workshop on solar art next year. He also works as a delivery agent with Zomato. And in March, he married his childhood sweetheart, Aarthi, 26. All in all, he is out of the dark tunnel.

“I would watch Vignesh stand in the sun for hours and not give up. Initially, his hands would tremble. He deserves all he is getting and much more,” says Aarthi, a homemaker.

This is how she has always supported him, he adds. “In my toughest times, she would always say that nothing is permanent and the tough phase will pass. She understands me. She pushes me when I think it is time to give up.”

He doesn’t give up as easily as he once did. If there’s one thing he’s learnt from sunlight art, he says, it’s that there isn’t always scope for correction. But one can always start over.

Catch your daily dose of Fashion, Taylor Swift, Health, Festivals, Travel, Relationship, Recipe and all the other Latest Lifestyle News on Hindustan Times Website and APPs.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, July 25, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On