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Modern touch to tradition

The Thanjavur style of painting finds varied expressions at Raasi Art Foundation


IN THE pervasive imagery of the familiar Tanjore painting style, complex religious iconography is woven into a rich matrix that is reminiscent of the extravagance of the Maratha courts of Thanjavur and Mysore. This is effectively the materialising of refined craftsmanship that has essentially grown out of humble origins, from the hands of traditional craftspersons seeking elite patronage. But in the present day when courtly patronage is absent, the artisans have to adapt to the circumstances and transform their products to suit the times.

Working with families that have been engaged in South Indian traditional art forms through generations, Raasi Art Foundation endeavours to ensure that the long-established lineage is not disrupted, by supporting the artisans economically. With the changing times, modifications are seen as mandatory to sustain the interest in these arts with attempts at integration of the traditional content with ideas and concepts that emerge from the foundation. This leads to unique representations such as blending different techniques, using typically North Indian themes with South Indian depictions and the like.

This exhibition inadvertently conveys the fragile nature of the traditional arts of Thanjavur painting and Kalahasti Kalamkari painting. Commercialisation alters content creating new avenues, new expressions and new art forms and yet the essence remains.

In some instances, as in the application of gold leaf in the Thanjavur style on to oil painting done in the academic manner, the contemporary clearly grows out of the traditional, with only as much as a fine line demarcating them. The paintings integrate modern realist sensibilities within the Thanjavur stylistic idiom.

The concept of beauty for its own sake is foreign to Indian traditional art, the purpose of an entity being of imperative significance. However, innovative ideas allow the conventional to take on contemporary application using an art form that has habitually been restricted to being viewed within the connotation of an object of worship to move out of the confines of the puja room and find varied expression in space as part of ceiling decoration and so on.

The exhibition is on till January 4, 2004, at Raasi Art Foundation, Anna Avenue, Baktavatsalam Nagar, Adyar.

SWAPNA SATHISH

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