Old Is Still Gold: Indian Art Forms
(Picture Source: tribuneindia.com, Art forms of India)
Regional art in India apparently has a great potential in the international market because of its traditional aesthetic sensibility and authenticity. The rural folk paintings of India bear distinctive colorful designs, which are treated with religious and mystical motifs. Some of the most famous regional paintings of India are the Madhubani paintings of Bihar, Patachitra paintings from the state of Odisha, the Nirmal paintings of Andhra Pradesh, and other such folk art forms. This art is however not restricted only to paintings, but also stretches to other art forms such as pottery, home decorations, ornaments, cloths-making, and so on. From the words and the inscriptions, engraved in the pillars of the Mughals, and the paintings created on the walls to boost the glory and the respect, in one’s eyes to fabric of the clothes, stitched and painted with intricate ideas with threads; is the art that India has the essence and the fragrance of.
To join the track of the art, that the ancestors created and introduced to their world, and the culture that was differentiated on the basis of the traditions in which art was mixed with the salt of thoughts and ships of raging wires of ego; is what India lives within. Though the modern world has been engraved into the world of #hashtag, on the platforms of social birds, the historic art still lives by the edge of Indian roots.
A link to all the art forms: Madhubani, Kalamkari, Gond, Miniatures and Pata-chitra.
Form of Art: Madhubani
Mithila painting (also known as Madhubani painting) is practiced in the Mithila state of Nepal and in the Bihar state of India. Painting is done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, using natural dyes and pigments, and is characterized by eye-catching geometrical patterns. Originally the paintings depicted an assembly of symbolic images of the lotus plant, the bamboo grove, fishes, birds and snakes in union. These images represented fertility and proliferation of life. The contribution of foreign scholars in promoting the art form internationally has also been immense. From novelist and journalist to a french movie: “The Women Painters of Mithila” the form of art was given a wide introduction to the unique style used by the pupils of that state.
Today, things have changed and now this style is popular not only among the people of India, but also among the people of other countries, especially US and Japan. During the traditional times, this type of painting used to be done on mud walls of houses that were freshly plastered. Now, you would find Madhubani paintings on canvas, cushions, paper or even cloths. People are also doing Madhubani artwork on utensils and even bangles.
It was before 1970’s when the art of Madhubani paintings became almost extinct. The art was simply passed from one generation of women to another. The teachings given by gurus and others, didn't get the recognition and a place in the system of art lists. It was then when the phase changed and the Art market made a place for this art yet again. National and International awards were given to the ones, who kept a place in their life for such art. The demand for the intricate work increased and the worked out to create vibrant buzz around the corner for the same. It is today that, so many exclusive art galleries for Madhubani paintings can be found in India and even overseas. In the town of Madhubani, there is also a ‘Mithila Art Institue’, which stands for the development of Madhibani paintings and also for the training of young artists. There is Madhubani Art center in Delhi, capital, itself. In Japan, there is one ‘Mithila Museum’, which has over 850 Madhubani paintings.
The museum also conducts research and also works for the publicity of these paintings. Famous Artists in this form/ style of Art:
1) Sita Devi, one of the most prominent early Mithila artists and among the first to transfer the traditional art form from the walls of the home to paper and canvas. She received State award by Government of Bihar in 1969, and taught the art to her family members as well.
(Picture Source: emithilaart.com, Sita Devi Painting)
2) Vidhushini Prasad, a bangalore based enterpreneur who kept alive the essence of this art and exhibited in many of the art galleries across India like Renaissance Art Gallery (Bangalore), David Hall Art Gallery, Fort Kochi, Eka Lifestyle, Bangalore, Genesis Art Gallerie. I have also showcased my work at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Bengaluru. Her paintings have been a part of the listings on online portals like FineArtAmerica, and she has authored a book on Madhubani art as well.
(Picture Source: her.yourstory.com, Vidhushini Prasad and her artwork)
3) Manish Jha, is a self-taugt artist. Born into a community whose women folk have been practicing art during festivals and ceremonies for generations, she started painting at a young age. Along with her professional degrees, she continued her self-learning process in Madhubani painting. Her educational career promoted new dimensions within her paintings. Manisha’s first exhibition was sponsored by India International Center, New Delhi in 1998. Among her awards are the prestigious National Award given by the President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee in the year 2014, she was awarded State Award from Government of New Delhi 2008, and Jaiprakash Narayan award in the field of Madhubani Painting, 2002. She is an active scholar and has presdented papers on Mithila painting in international seminars across the country, like at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi.
List of books on this form of art, to guide you into the roots to the top of the tree:
1) Brown, Carolyn Henning, "Contested Meanings: Tantra and the Poetics of Mithila Art,"
2) Brown, Carolyn Henning, “The Women Painters of Mithila”
3) Archer, William G., Songs for the Bride: Wedding Rites of Rural India
4) Craven, Roy C., A Concise History of Indian Art
(Picture Source: epapers.timesofindia.com, Manisha Jha at her exhibition)
Proud Moment: Manisha Mishra’s Madhubani painting makes it to the logo of International Folk Art Festival slated to be held in the US this July – 2016.
(Picture Source: www.thehindu.com)
Form of Art: Kalamkari
The art of Kalamkari was originally called Vrathapani. Or Qalamkari, is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, produced in parts of India. There are two distinctive styles of kalamkari art in India – the Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. The Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari, wherein the “kalam” or pen is used for free hand drawing of the subject and filling in the colors, is entirely hand worked. Whereas, Machilipatnam Kalamkari is a handcrafted dyed block-painting of a fabric. This form of art has been practiced by many families in Andhra Pradesh and over the generations has constituted their livelihood. Though, it had a certain decline, then it was revived in India and abroad for its craftsmanship.
(Picture Source: newindianexpress.com, Kalamkari exhibition)
In modern times the term is also used to refer, incorrectly, to the making of any cotton fabric patterned through the medium of vegetable dyes by free hand painting and block-printing, produced in many different regions of India. In places where the fabric is block printed the Kalam (pen) is used to draw finer details and for application of some colours. It specifically depicts epics such as the Ramayana or Mahabharata. However, there are recent applications of the Kalamkari technique to depict Buddha and Buddhist art forms.
Kalamkari has still made its way through times, to lead its creativity on the canvas of fabrics and sheet, till present time. Displayed and presented in number of exhibitions and shows like, Ancient Kalamkari painting exhibition 2013. And in order to give a proper tribute, the city of Hyderabad celebrates “Kalamkari Festival” every year, to provide a platform to all the artisans to sell their artworks. Due to less development under this form of art, there were less of promotion and growth that lead to unrecognized artists around the world, India specifically.
(Picture Source: metmuseum.org, Kalamkari paintings)
Famous Artists in this form/ style of Art:
1) M Vishwanath Reddy, a young award-winning Kalamkari artist. Vishwanath is from Sri Kalahasti, where Kalamkari in India has developed and continues to flourish. He was born into a family of artists. “I learnt Kalamkari after school,” said he. Today, his sketching skills are well known. He designs sarees and other fabrics, with block printing techniques for which the costly and expensive labor and takes an enormous part of his time. His products are sold on online platforms and portals.
2) Padma Shri J. Gurappa Chetty, is son of Lakshmaiah, who was one of the last surviving Kalamkari artists in Andhra Pradesh in the 1940; is accredited for his masterpieces like ‘The Mahabharata’ and ‘The Ramayana’, exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Gurappa perfected this art and carried it to new horizons and even depicted legends from ‘The Puranas.’ Gurappa was also very keen to train his daughters and hence became the first Kalamkari artist to hold workshops for women. In 2008 President of India honored Gurappa with Padma Shree in recognition of his contribution to Kalamkari Art.
(Picture Source: amazon.com, one of his online product)
(Picture Source: Paramparikkarigar.com, Gurappa)
3) Mr. J. Niranjan hails from a long linage of Master craftsmen of Kalamkari art. His great-grandfather, grandfather and father Gurappa were all teachers of Kalamkari. J. Niranjan has carried the tradition of workshops from his father Gurappa, and is a well -known Kalamkari artist in the country. who has traveled extensively (both nationally and internationally) to promote Kalamkari and conduct workshops. Niranjan is a recipient of State Award and also was given an award to celebrate the 50 years of All India Handicrafts Board (AIHB). Kalamkari Artist and President of Paramparik Karigar, J. Niranjan won the ‘NANTONG INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY CRAFT COMPETITION BRONZE AWARD 2014.
List of books on this form of art, to stitch the threads of its history to the modern times:
1) Kalamkari : Figures And Design – K.Prakash
2) Kalamkari & Traditional Design Heritage of India – Shakuntala Ramani
Form of Art: Gond
(Picture Source: paramparikkarigar.com, J. Niranjan)
Gond painting depicts various celebrations, rituals and man’s relationship with nature. The artists use natural colors derived from charcoal, colored soil, plant sap, leaves, and cow dung. This mystical art form is created by putting together dots and lines. The imaginative use of the line imparts a sense of movement to the still images. The paintings are an offering in worship of nature, and are also a mode of seeking protection and warding off evil. A certain sense of balance and symmetry can be observed in the pattern used, such as spiral forms along with trees, leaves, animals and human figures. Painted in several bright colors, the placement of motifs showcasing village life and the blending of human figures with rituals and nature depict the Gonds inherited skills and creativity. The work of Gond artists is rooted in their folk tales and culture, and thus story-telling is a strong element of every painting.
Today most Gond artist’s paints with acrylic on canvases and papers and the most gifted are exposed in India and abroad. One of the distinctive elements is the use of patterns (signatures) to infill the larger forms on the canvas. However every artist today has a personal style and has developed a specific language within these narratives creating a richness of aesthetic forms and styles. This art products such as Gond painting on wood, painted wooden trays and boxes have become extremely popular globally. Hearteningly, Gond art hasn’t escaped the eye of the art connoisseurs in the country. The Indian government is making efforts to preserve Gond painting.
Other well-wishers have gone a step further, and created the Must Art Gallery– the world’s first art gallery dedicated to Gond art. Unlike so many treasures of Indian culture that have slipped through the cracks of time and were lost forever, the future of Gond art looks as vibrant and colorful as the paintings.
(Picture Source: pinterest.com, Gond Art)
The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts’s (IGNCA) research discusses the cultural roots of the Gonds and also indicates the unifying theme in Gond art – the pervasive presence of nature. An exhibition was organized by Government run Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) in Adelaide, displaying Hindu goddess Kali among other artworks in a "Gond Paintings" , in 2015. Radford University Art Museum organized 2015-16 Exhibition Season, curated by John H. Bowles.
Private art collectors, gallery owners, online auctions and even airports are gradually waking up to the allure of traditional art rendered in modern-day aesthetics—artworks which do not reflect in their works what some would call a predictable ‘crafts museum mentality’.
Famous Artists in this form/ style of Art:
1) Jangarh Singh Shyam, the first one to gain national recognition. He was the first artist to paint on paper and canvas instead of directly on earth or walls of the home. The intricacy and control in his dot-based designs is seen in the works of all Gond artists, as are his most common subjects – the tree of life and various animals. He achieved fame quickly when, in 1986, merely five years after his ‘discovery’, the twenty-six year old was conferred the Shikhar Samman (the Summit Award)— the highest civilian award bestowed by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. His most solo exhibition was ater his death in 2001, Chemould Art Gallery, Bombay (2009) & international exhibitions like Show and Tell, Fondation Cartier, Paris 2012 and Gwangju Biennale, Korea 2012.
2) Durga Bai, has illustrated two children’s books published by Tara publications called, ‘One Two Three’ and ‘Sultan Dreams’. In 2004, Durga Bai was honoured by the Handicraft Development council. In 2008 she and two other Gond artists, Ram Singh Urveti and Bhajju Shyam, were presented the BolognaRagazzi Award in Italy for their illustrations in the children’s book, The Night Life of Trees, published by Tara Publications.
3) Nankusia Shyam, spouse of late Jangarh Singh Shyam, revealed that
she had actually been involved with Jangarh’s work and at times had helped him with his painting. It has only been a few years since Nankusia has been on her own, yet in that time she has produced a large number of sophisticated and compelling paintings.
(Picture Source: jangarhsinghshyam.blogspot.com, Oil canvas)
Books on this form of art:
1) Signature: Patterns in Gond Art, by Gita Wolf
2) The Night Life of Trees, by Durga Bai
Form of Art: Patachitra
Pattachitra is a general term for traditional, cloth-based scroll painting, based in the eastern Indian state, Odisha. The Pattachitra style is mix of both folk and classical elements but leanings more towards folk forms. The dress style has Mughal influences.
(Picture Source: artfoundout.blogspot.com, Nakusia)
All of the poses have been confined to a few well-defined postures. These are not free from monotonous repetitions, though at times this is necessary to accentuate the narrative character of the style.
Traditionally the painters are known as chitrakars. A patta painter’s home with all the members of family is his studio. Woman members prepare the glue, the canvas and apply colours what we call the fill-in, and give the final lacquer coating. The master hand, mostly the male member, draws the initial line and gives the final finishing. Patta paintings are done on small strips of cotton cloth.
Today, to keep up with the essence of this regional form of art, the country celebrates this style in the name of “Pot Maya” annually. In the last weekend of November, Pingla, the quaint little village of Patuas transforms into a wonderland. This is a village of 400+ Patuas who are painters, who display or perform their work on the spot for the visitors, who walk down the painted path ways of history, heritage, mythology and modern realism through a tapestry of colourful stories weaved in a song. “The Chitrakars are going to celebrate their annual festival POTMaya from November 22 to 24 this year. The Patuas are busy in transforming their village into a wonderland with its huts and walls brightly painted with Patachitra motifs.”
(Picture Source: exoticindiaart.com, Patachitra paintings)
(Picture Source: Indianfestivalguide.com, Celebration of PotMaya)
Young people are learning the art from their living Gurus. Project Ethno-magic Going Global (EGG), an ongoing initiative by banglanatak dot com supported by the European Union has facilitated interaction between Patuas and Contemporary painters and new media artists from Europe.
To help to boost up their growth and working procedure of their sales around the village, there was a documentary with the name “Singing Pictures” was made on them. A group of women from Naya village near Calcutta formed a scroll painters’ collaborative. The film follows their daily lives as they paint, sing, cook, tend to their children and meet with the cooperative. They discuss the problems and rewards of practicing their art, and speak freely about the social, religious, and political changes in the village and the world beyond. Their wisdom, artistry, and good humor amidst many difficulties illuminate the lives around them. These stories attest to what it means to be a woman in Bengal and India today, demonstrating how a small group of determined women can empower themselves by adapting an ancient art to new conditions.
1) Sudarshan Sahoo, has mastered the art of icon making and he is knowledgeable in the scriptures and ancient lore. His style imbibes the temple heritage of Orissa. He has been to Japan several times at the invitation of the Japan Buddha Sangha and carved all the stone statues and murals required for the Buddha temple and stupas. His long cherished dream came true in 1977 when he started the Sudarshan Crafts Museum at Puri with the objective of bringing about a renaissance in this art.
1) The Patachitra of Naya, Pingla – by Ruth Dillon, Tony Knox.
Documentary link: http://www.der.org/films/singing-pictures.html
Form or style of Art: Miniatures
(Picture Source: www.gatha.com, Sudharshan Sahoo)
A miniature is a small-scale reproduction, or a small version. It can either of a potrait, painting, engraving and sculpture, text or album. Can be based on playtoys and games to smaller version of alcohol bottles, used for decoration and other artistic versions of mind or, used as momentos to keep a memory of the big versions or rather real version of things, people wants to remember and keep as a sovunier. These paintings are beautiful handmade paintings, which are quite colorful but small in size. The highlight of these paintings is the intricate and delicate brushwork, which lends them a unique identity. The colors are handmade, from minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver. The most common theme of the Miniature painting of India comprises of the Ragas i.e., the musical codes of Indian classical music. There were a number of miniature schools in the country, including those of Mughals, Rajputs and the Deccan. Paintings lost their charm and started to decline in the 18th century. It became a cheap medium to depict the scenes of dance, parties and sensuous palace life.
The traditional Indian painting started deteriorating after the first half of the 18th century and by the end of the century it lost most of its vitality and charm. However, in the Pahari region the art of painting maintained its quality till the end of the first quarter of the 19th century.
(Picture Source: robadadonne.it, Miniatures’ collection)
Under the impact of the Western colours and technique of painting the traditional styles of Indian painting finally died out in the second half of the 19th century.
Though today, miniatures are mixed with the trending Bollywood and fashion lifestyle, introducing a new way of living the essence of this style in the modern way.
Figures and portraits, clocks hanging on the walls taking the shape of art and spreading the joy of the bigger version of the same. Miniatures are a form of evidence of the memories that one has lived and cherished and has the element to remember it, again and again. Sometimes used as a decorative piece or as a showcase item, but miniatures have just taken a new form to enter the 21st century.
Famous artists who made us relive the art, with their personal and modern touch:
1) Suvigya Sharma, is an Indian artist, painter, fashion designer, and does miniature paintings, Tanjore painting, fresco work and portraits. In February, 2016, Suvigya Sharma his art work Timeless Miniature Art was showcased at Make in India event, with a live demonstration of Miniature-painting technologies in Mumbai. He has been exhibited in galleries and museums such as Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata, Cymroza Art Gallery, Kamalnayan Bajaj Art Gallery, Chitrakoot Art Gallery, India Habitat Centre and Artisans Art gallery.
2) Nikunj Vagadia – as the owner of the world’s largest collection of miniature books. He owns miniature versions of the Bhagwad Gita, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone and 258 such other books that he himself has produced. According to him, it serves a big aim of his — to spread the message of peace, non-violence, brotherhood and love.
(Picture Source: Filckrhivemind.com, Bollywood miniatures)
Books from the leaf of history to spoon of modern sugar:
1) Modern Masters of Miniature Art in America by Wes and Rachelle
2) Exquisite miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist Siegrist
3) The world of nature in miniature; Paintings by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist
(Picture Source: Flickr.com, Miniature of the bollywood star, SRK)