Uncovering Warli: Cave painting to canvas painting

by Chetna
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Warli paintings are like visual poetry, done in homemade colour against the rudimentary wall paintings as it is used as graphic vocabulary. The style of painting Warli is rhythmic, flowing and superbly executed after the style of the ancient cave painting. Circle, triangle and square are thematic lines and curves that could be interpreted as sun, moon, stars and closed walls. While there are no records of the exact origins of this art, its roots may be traced to as early as the 10th century A.D. Later its recognition fast-tracked in the 1970s. The art of Warli as it appears to be from the Neolithic period in central Indian rock painting. On the canvas, triangular humans and animals with geometric motifs are painted in white lines. There are various ways to tell tales on Warli painting on marriage ceremonies, Holi festival motif and reaping motif and festival nagapanchmi motifs. Warli paintings take deep eye-detail to understand the long meticulous graphic tale.

The Warli art is based on the concept of Mother Nature while canvassing the life of tribal people, elements of nature are often kept in center. Farming is the main way of living for tribal communities hence they have immense respect for nature and wildlife for the wealth that they provide. Warli paintings are considered religious iconography as the tribal people consider nature as god. Warli paintings depict a sense of consistency in people and highlight close social relations among their community members. Elements in paintings such as trees, animals, events, social gatherings and formations of humans are from real life scenarios and situations.

A Warli painting can also be a visual tale of their traditional stories. Artists nowadays include elements of the modern world such as bicycles, cars, buildings, computers, airplanes and trains. Warlis are an Indian tribal group that lives in Maharashtra. The Warli Tribesmen and women are traditional storytellers who pass down traditions, knowledge, and culture orally through visual graphics as well. This oral tradition is beautifully painted elaborate tales on the walls of their houses and other community common areas. They have their own kind of painting that they employ to decorate the walls and floors of their home. Warli has become the world’s newest craze. These basic yet detailed give the visual and a trendy flair on wallstreet and wall decor.

With the back-to-the-roots movement infiltrating every aspect of our life, art enthusiasts proudly display the Warli theme on street walls, fabrics, and home décor. This artwork is traditionally done on a red ochre background with white paint as the sole other colour with twigs and animal hair brush. Contrary to common belief, Maharashtra’s Warli Paintings are considerably different from other tribal and folk paintings in India, but they are highly comparable to African Zulu Paintings in many ways. The first step in bringing Warli art into the modern world was to modify the medium of painting. It started out on paper, which promised the paintings would last longer and be more durable. Parts of the Warli community gradually became acquainted with metropolitan life. Many of them have entirely assimilated into mainstream urban society in search of a better life.

Today, Warli art has progressed far enough to be incorporated into current fashion and design projects. Warli paintings, once a modest painting technique of a marginal Indian tribe, have gained international recognition thanks to exceptional painters. It is really heartwarming to see an ancient art style, which is also a part of India’s national history, flourishing in current times.

There is no more comprehensive summary of the core emotion of Warli art. An art form inspired by everyday life stories, which serve as a reminder of the tribe’s cherished traditional values and cultures which continue to spread not only on walls or canvas but as a fashion statement in global culture.

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