Traditional, yet so contemporary
Chennai-based Raasi Art Foundation headed northwards this past week to propagate traditional South Indian art forms.
THE AGE-OLD BEAUTY Some of the Tanjore paintings Raasi Art Foundation displayed at Visual Arts Gallery
It's a pilgrimage that Chennai-based Raasi Art Foundation undertakes each year and this time it has headed North. Armed with a consignment large enough to fill every inch of the spacious Visual Arts Gallery housed in New Delhi's India Habitat Centre, this organisation is serious about its two-pronged agenda - to instil an appreciation of South Indian art throughout the country (Raasi is an acronym for Rejuvenating Ancient Arts of South India) and to study ancient art forms even as it maps their genesis and growth in terms of style and method.
For a city that is largely used to seeing contemporary art, the exhibition titled, "Traditional Art Forms - Enduring Values" (held between August 12 and 15) comes as a breath of fresh air for Delhiites.
The spiritual ambience catches a nerve and it's not rare to see a potential customer edge his way towards a favourite god. There's so much to choose from - a variety of Ganeshas, Krishnas, Vishnus and Lakshmis rendered in classical styles such as Tanjore, Mysore and Kerala murals.
Even the South Indian deities are sought after. The Tanjore is opulent, oozing gold leaf and precious gems. The Mysore is a historically older style, its colours are muted, there's only a hint of gold and the style is more delicate. Interestingly, it has a bigger repertoire of subjects so that it's not a sacrilege for a portrait of a Maratha king to share wall space with iconographic paintings.
The Kerala murals allure. In terms of numbers, they are the smallest, hardly 10 of them on display.
Technically superb, they captivate a discerning audience looking for something different. Even with a Spartan palette consisting of barely five colours, the artist is able to replay a fascinating account of an ancient myth. Visitors often stop by a mural, wanting to know the legend.
K. Srinivasan, Chief Executive of Raasi agrees that there's a lack of creativity in ancient art forms as the artist has to adhere to predetermined rules that dictate every aspect of the work. "Krishna holding a pot of butter is a very typical Tanjore theme and has been rendered umpteen times. But even the size of the pot is predestined," he says.
Even as Tanjore painting classes have mushroomed in every locality, Srinivasan emphasises that the displayed collection is done by art groups in a `paramparik' way.
The workmanship of the gold leaf work, the application of colours and even the faces of the icons reflect a divinity or `bhava' that is propitious to the painting. "Our intention is to educate the buyer and help him differentiate between genuine and fake," says Srinivasan.
For a six-year-old foundation on its debut tour of the Capital, it has taken all measures to hold the audience's interest. Even the framing is in keeping with the theme.
Made of pure teak wood, the shapes vary from temple to domes or regular squares and rectangles. "It is the picture which defines the frame."
Also on display are kalamkari prints on textiles.
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