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Miniature marvels

The works of Umashankar infuse life into a fading art


THEY ARE miniature in style but magnificent in appeal. Umashankar's paintings seem to infuse life into a fading art.

A revivalist of sorts, the self-taught artist besotted with the `Bani Thani' tale took to the miniature mode of expression. A Gujjar girl with a beautiful voice, Bani stole the heart of the prince of Kishangarh, who defied royal conventions to marry her. Naturally enough women with old world beauty — in traditional outfits and abundant jewellery occupy most of Umashankar's conventional canvases. And so does shringara rasa.

Miniature art flourished between the 16th and 18th Century under the patronage of Moghul emperors Akbar, Jehangir and Shahjahan. But with the advent of Aurangzeb's reign, many gave up the art or took refuge in Rajput kingdoms. The kings of Kishangarh particularly took keen interest in preserving the miniature marvels for posterity.


Umashankar began his artistic journey by restoring the old and worn out works. And today, he is among the foremost artists of this specialised style. Krishna legends, folk life of Rajasthan, Moghul and Rajput royal splendour and Indian brides — Umashankar seems to revel in the richness of the past. At the same time, he uses his modern mindset to tap techniques to achieve a long-lasting impression. For instance, by using real gold and silver pieces, the jewellery worn by the women on the canvases appear close-to-real. But some of the female forms lack deft delieneation.

In his series based on "Madhushala", a collection of highly acclaimed poems by Harivanshrai Bachchan, each canvas combines wordy and visual appeal in a rare jugalbandi.

Pigments ground from precious stones, vegetable colours, hand made paper, old court stamp papers, squirrel brushes and ornate frames lend Umashankar's canvases an authentic touch.

The show is on till November 10 at the Vinyasa Art Gallery.

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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