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Tête à Tête: Sagar Suresh Naik Mule

An Artist
sagar naik mule.jpg

Tête à Tête: Sagar Suresh Naik Mule

The Wise Owl talks to Sagar Suresh Naik Mule, an artist from Goa, who has been working diligently to revive and develop the traditional Kaavi technique of Goa. His efforts at reviving this technique have been lauded by the Prime Minister of India in his Mann Ki Baat address to the nation. He has also been honoured with the Pride of Goa Award for his work.

Sagar received his BFA in Painting from Goa College of Art, Goa University and MFA in Sculpture from S.N School of Fine Art, University of Hyderabad. He has exhibited his work in several solo exhibitions as well, as group shows such as shows at Aakar Art Academy, Hyderabad (2015), Goa-Mini Print, Goa (2015), Kalakriti Art Gallery, Hyderabad (2015), Galera No Coincidence, Vilnius, Lithuania (2016) and Sanskriti Bhavan Art and Culture, Goa (2016). He has won multiple awards for Painting, Applied Art & Graphic Design and Sculpture by Kala Academy, Goa. Sagar was an artist-in-residence at Kalakriti Art Gallery, Hyderabad (2015), Aura Art Stay, Chandigarh (2016), Piramal Art Residency, Mumbai (2016), among others.

2022 was an eventful year for him. He was awarded the 17th International Press Community Award and Pride of Goa by Herald Global. He was honoured by the Ministry of Culture & Ministry of Textile, Govt of India during Jharokha, A Compendium of Indian Handicraft/ Handloom and by the Kala Academy, Goa during its 46th State Art Exhibition for Sculpture,


Thank you, Sagar, for taking time out to talk to The Wise Owl.


TWO: For the benefit of the readers, please tell us how and when you realised that you wanted to be artist. Was there anyone in your family or in your circle of friends and acquaintances who encouraged you to pursue art?


SM: Actually, I think my talent in Art is God’s gift. I am thankful to be the beneficiary of such a great talent that has made my country proud of me. This makes me very happy and satisfied. 


I used to do drawings right from the childhood. I received a lot of appreciation from all quarters. This motivated me and I was happy to choose the path of an artist. This gave me name and fame. I will be honest and loyal to my Art till my last breath of life.

There are no professional artists in our family nor has anyone studied art in our family circles. But our family has creativity and talent. Our village is known for art and because of this; it is called as ‘Kalakarancho Gaav’ (Artist village). During the Ganesh Chaturthi time, our village celebrates this festival in unique way. Ganesh Chaturthi celebration continue for five days. On the fifth day, which is also the day of Ganesh Immersion, we have a float parade. The floats are created on the theme of mythology. Our family creates a float with such an artistic flourish that it is always better than the others. I have always contributed with pride to the float.  That’s why people says that art is in our blood and perhaps this is how I inherited the talent- as God’s blessings.

I have a very strong vision about Art which is why I pursued Art Degree in Goa college of Art and then completed my Masters from S.N School of Art in University of Hyderbad. I had tough time financially but thanks to my well-wishers, local MLA Shri Sudhin Dhavlikar and Art & Culture department, Goa, who helped me during college time, I managed to complete both my degrees. During my student days I would also do some commercial work to purchase art material. This made me humble and down-o-earth.  


TWO: You have been lauded for your work in reviving the old tradition of Goa- the kaavi technique. For the benefit of the readers please explain what this traditional technique entails. Please tell us what attracted you to the technique?

SM: During the time of my fourth semester in Masters in Hyderabad, I had an epiphany. I started doing artworks related to my village. After passing out from college, I received residency invitations from many parts of India where I felt that my craft would improve. However, after that I came back to Goa and started research on the vanishing village life of Goa. I started using mud, cow dung and other natural raw materials as my main pigments. People started recognising my work as pieces of art and calling me a ‘Museum piece’ as well. Covid19 was a blessing in disguise for me. It was Navratri time. It was a time of negative vibes everywhere so I thought I will do one art work of each of the Goddesses of Goa during each day so that after completing the work, each viewer should connect to my work after seeing it because I have chosen goddesses (Kuldevta) from north to south Goa.

Before I started on my project, I started thinking about how to make my artwork different from others and how to synchronize the work with God and temple so as to keep them in one frame. As a child I remember seeing Kaavi designs in temples, but I had hardly seen any artist who worked on this art form. It seemed to be a vanishing form of art. As old temples are being rebuilt, Kaavi art, used on the walls of the old temples, is slowly disappearing. So I felt that, this was the appropriate time to revive this old form of art. I have attempted it as a challenge because nobody had done this kind of work before. So, I started posting my artwork in this form, on social media, on each day of Navratri and voila!! magic happens!! My work is greatly appreciated. This is how my practice in the Kaavi began. As a 21st century artist my intention is to not only revive but also promote Kaavi in a contemporary way. I experiment with the technique, so the original technique/craft is different from what I do right now. The Kaavi art was born around 300-400 years ago according to written history. The practice was done by Saraswat Brahmins and the Origin of Kaavi art is from Goa. So they use to do work on walls-mainly in temples. They used white shell powder as a putty o which they added jaggery and sand. They would also use ingredients of masala and then use red soil by mixing gum of Palankad Plant. Actually ‘Kaav’ means red soil which is why the name ‘Kaavi’. So these artworks are created with red soil and the designs are also inspired by nature like waves, leaf etc.

As I belong to village, I have a special love for my motherland. As children we use to play mud games. Now although we have grown up, our love for soil is still the same and working with soil as an artist gives me immense satisfaction. I enjoy working with mud and soil as I can breathe in the beautiful aroma of the soil while working. MITTI KI KHUSHBOO AATI HAI.


TWO: The Kaavi technique was used in Goa to mostly decorate houses. So how did you think of applying this technique to paper?

SM: See according to me, decorating temples and houses is good but if we need to promote this form and make the artwork universal. The Warli art, Pattchitra, Madhubani art, rajasthani art etc are showcased on a global platform because their work is travelling from one place to another, but that was possible only because of they started recreating these techniques on paper, canvas and other material through which they can show the artwork to the world.

I decided to do the same with the kaavi art form.  If I want to preserve and promote this art form, I have to recreate it in mediums that people can buy and take wherever they want. Earlier, this form was seen only on walls due to which it remained sequestered but when I started working on paper and other mediums, people became aware of its beauty and began to show interest in this form. It made me more motivated when the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi ji praised me for my Kaavi art. My work gets more attention because I do Kaavi in contemporary way, which has never been seen before.


TWO: To recreate the kaavi technique on paper you used wall putty, acrylic and red soil on paper in your Navratri series. Please tell us a little about it.

SM: This trend of Navratri series started in 2020. First I created artwork featuring Goan Goddesses. Then in 2021 Goan Gods and in 2022, I moved from Goa to other states and recreated the Goddesses of Maharashtra. I chose Shaktipeethas of Maharashtra. I experimented and made the works on paper with putty. It is my first experiment successfully done on paper. It is a new work and yet it looks like it is hundred-year-old work. It is one of my habits that I never do work in same method again.  I like to move out of my comfort zone. This gives a freshness and newness to my work. Here I have used paper as a base and then paper filled with gum and on it applied wall putty so that it cannot fall off and then after mixing red soil in acrylic colour etched or carved the work with needle. After completing the work, I gave it a small wash of yellow and orange of acrylic and in some parts pasted golden foil which makes the work appealing and hints at a golden era of Kaavi Art in Modern times.


TWO: You are working on reviving an old traditional art. Have you faced any challenges in your work? How did you overcome them?

SM: Actually no, I did not face any challenges because first of all whenever I started any new project, I did it with all my energy and dedication. But before I begin a work of art, I do detailed research and gather information about my theme from every source I can tap.


TWO: Our viewers and readers would be curious to know if you are working on a special project or preparing for a show or group exhibition. Do share details.

SM: There are many projects and even group shows in the offing but currently I am preparing for a solo show.


TWO: What advice would you give Artists about how to hone their craft?

SM: First of all, you should be proud of your culture, tradition and even of your folk art. When you have a rich culture, it is important to learn from it and recreate it, showcase it. This will ultimately make you a legend although it may be a long journey full of lots of struggle.  Be proud to be an Indian Artist and be proud to that you are contributing to Indian Art.


Thank you so much Sagar for talking to The Wise Owl. We wish you the very best in your commendable pursuit of reviving the Kaavi technique. We hope you can bring India on the World map of creativity with your work in this field.

Art Work of Sagar Suresh Naik Mule

Deepstambh        Acrylic and mud on canvas         36''x 48''            2021.JPG
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