A mason’s son from Mandrem is one of Goa’s most accomplished architects, who deftly works on the synergies between art and architecture. While his footprints are everywhere, he wants to build more and more homes in Mandrem and also promote the next generation of Goan artists
Pradeep Naik grew up in the sleepy village of Mandrem, visiting construction sites where his mason-father worked. His father was a small-time contractor and built houses around Mandrem.
Today, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Naik, who is just 42, fits in perfectly in the great tradition of artists who were also architects. He learnt a number of construction techniques from his father, including creating divine surfaces using cement, marble-dust and pigments, which could be considered as one of the specialities of masons from Pernem. Not many today can replicate the mirror-finished red oxide floors, which we see in old homes. Naik was always interested in art and his art teacher in Mandrem High School, G R Naik, helped him get admission in Goa College of Art. He is indebted to artist Sadguru Chendvankar for teaching him composition and textures. After graduation, he went to Hyderabad and joined Sarojini Naidu School of Fine Arts for his Post Graduation, under luminary teachers like D L N Reddy, Shymsunder and Laxma Goud. Sarojini Naidu had named her home Golden Threshold after her famous poem by the same name. Golden Threshold was Pradeep’s school. Pradeep came to meet me at Kerkar Art Complex, after he finished his Post Graduation in 2002. A solo show was offered to him, which was all sold out. He then tried his hand at terracotta sculptures. He created a series of figurative works including a sculpture titled ‘The Couple’. His first break in creating interiors came when Sheila Dhody of Casa Boutique Hotels commissioned him to create a few murals after seeing his works displayed at the Saturday Night Market. She began discussing some interior design ideas with him, which turned out to be his first lessons in interior design. Says Dhody, “Casa Colvale is like a private gallery of his stuff. He’s been to Delhi to work on a residence there as well as in the mountains at Bhimtal where he helped me with two villas. I met him in 2001 when he was barely out of college and I liked his sculpture, which was in a stall at Saturday Night Market. That’s where the story started 18 years ago.” The boy who had grown up in a mason’s house in Mandrem got exposure to interior designs from all around, thus beginning his journey as an interior designer. The first house he constructed was his own. It is a very special house, adorned with his murals and a long veranda with wooden railings, overlooking perpetually green paddy fields and vegetable gardens. This house has become a hub for the artist community of Goa. He started designing small beach cottages, and then went on to do studio apartment and other cottages. His own project, Artist Cottages, is a wooden structure on Morjim Beach. He has done another house called L’amore House and a very attractive restaurant called Balcao. Naik’s artistic language is inspired by the architecture of old Chapels and Old Goan houses, including clay houses. “I consider each wall of the house as a painting,” says Naik, who uses special textures on its surfaces. He uses cement with marble powder and pigments on floors and for creating furniture, bathrooms, as well as reception counters. He recycles wood from demolished houses for making his doors, beams and lamps. No furniture in his projects is bought. Everything is created using old wood. Each of his rooms is decorated with excellent paintings and drawings by Goa’s young artists. This has made him a great promoter and supporter of the artist community. “I want to build more and more houses in Mandrem and add to the beauty of the village,” says Pradeep, whose latest project, a restaurant on the main road in Mandrem, called ‘Balcao’, has become a landmark. Each table in this restaurant is a work of art. Kalidas Mhamal, another artist from Mandrem, has painted onions, chillies and many other local fruits and vegetables on the polished wooden surfaces. “All the projects I have created are very successful. What I create is even cheaper than interiors created with fancy materials”, says Pradeep. The X factor is the blending of art and architecture. There was a strong marriage between Art and Architecture, which lasted for centuries, until the syllabus of modern times more or less forced them to divorce. Very little art is a part of the syllabus in Architectural Colleges. The works of Pradeep Naik and what he passes down to the next generation will go a long way in correcting this imbalance.
(The writer is a noted artist and founder of Museum of Goa, Pilerne)
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