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Reviving India's dying art forms

India has a powerhouse of talent in art. Despite this, its traditional art forms are dying. With an aim to revive them and familiarise people about India’s talented artists, Art Tree has brought artworks from east (Madhubani), west (phad) and south (chintz) under one roof.

For years, several independent organisations have strived to create awareness about regional art. But despite that, Indian art forms haven’t received appreciation like western artists. Understanding the narrow divide between Indian and western art and with an aim to educate masses about Indian art, Art Tree is showcasing chintz, Madhubani and Phad art under one roof. The show titled ‘Ekayan - Ek sutra’ is being held at Bikaner House, New Delhi. It will be open to public till December 30.

Explaining the title of the show, Pragati Agarwal, Founder, Art Tree, says, “We called this show ‘Ekayan’ as it means ‘oneness’. The art forms chosen for the show belong to east (Madhubani), west (phad) and south (chintz) that represent this oneness.”

The show represents works of Prakash Joshi from western India, Manisha Jha from eastern India and J Niranjan from southern India.

Prakash Joshi is showcasing Phad art. Unlike other shows where Phad artists paint 35-40 feet long paintings, Prakash’s Phad art is visible in miniature form. The Bhilwara-based artist artworks narrate stories of local deities from Rajasthan. He has taken inspiration from mythology and referred to texts given in books, religion and history to choose his characters.

In one of the paintings, he has taken the essence from Valmiki’s Ramayana and made Aditya Hridam as a separate painting. “For instance, I have consulted Ramayana written by Valmiki as well as Tulsidas. I took the essence from the works of both the writers. I studied Ramayana written by Tulsidas as well as Valmiki beforehand. These works are based on seven chapters of Ramayana which were painted separately as seven artworks,” he clarifies.

He used power loom cloth as the base. The artist says that he decided this as the cloth’s grain is finer than handloom cloth. Describing the technique as a 2-3 days process, he says, “I used malmal and added wheat/rice starch on it. I then rubbed the cloth with onyx stone to smoothen the cloth. This process helps refine the fabric and allows the brush to work properly. It also lets the cloth to absorb colour easily.”

Working with starch and onyx stone isn’t easy. The artist applies starch on clothes and keeps them for some time. “If the cloth is rubbed with onyx stone and kept out without use for days, it loses its smoothness and becomes rough overtime, which hampers the movement of the brush,” he clarifies.

The artist has used natural pigment stone colours. These colours are made after crushing and grinding the stones into powder and removing mica from them. These colours are then processed with tree gum and used.

Artist Manisha Jha too has uses natural colours in her artworks. The Delhi-based Madhubani artist uses turmeric, cachou (kattha), tea, coffee, pomegranate and jamun, roadside leaves and flower on canvas. “This was to break that myth that natural colours are not stable,” she says.

For the show, the artist has shown line work and the tree of life in all the paintings. The artist has represented all the paintings through the tree of life as she finds it a powerful medium of expression.

Explaining the significance of trees, she says, “Trees are the most important part of our lives. They are the root of the society as they stand firm and grow into different direction. That is the concept of our life as well. That also stands true for women. Women are also the root of the society. They stand firm and grow into different direction. The same concept also works for city as well.”

With 15 artworks on display, some of them are from her previous series but they have not been showcased previously. For instance, the cityscapes are from her earlier series on Banaras. A few pieces from other series, such as the one from jackfruit, Kamdhenu, elephant, Krishna and Gopika, fish and chakra series.

Manisha, the third generation of Madhubani artist in her family, has been narrating life and nature through pictures. This showcase is no different. “In folk art, stories are everything. I have been painting for the last 40 years. There are traditional symbols in folk art and each of them have a separate meaning. For instance, fish is a symbol of evolution and new beginnings. Parrot represents love and snake is a symbol of fertility and time,” she says.

J Niranjan is showcasing Kalamkari works at the show, an art that he has learnt from his father Padamshri Guruappa Chetty. He has used natural dyes in to protect the environment and artisans lives from the pollution that is created by using the chemical dyes. He has made these artworks at Shri Kalahasti near Chennai.

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