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Whirls of white

Artist Shantaram Chintya Tumbada from Maharashtra is in the city to demonstrate Warli art


THE INTRICATE figures that seem to dance in endless concentric circles are fairly familiar now — almost anyone who's seen a Tantra T-shirt can identify Maharastra's Warli art.

Artist Shantaram Chintya Tumbada, from Thane district in Maharashtra, is in the city to demonstrate this tribal form of art. At Contemporary Arts and Crafts, on C.P. Ramaswamy Road, he sits cross-legged on the floor, with his mud-coloured canvases spread out in front of him and draws endless triangular, stick-like figures that are dancing, carrying loads, selling wares in marketplaces, praying at temples, celebrating wedding, harvest festivals and Diwali, riding horses and chasing dogs and crows. The figures are similar but dexterously drawn, the lines are fine and the details are splendid.

Shantaram's works include a huge mural on a wall of the six-storeyed Tony Garnier museum in Leon, France. He shyly shows the poster of the building on which his mural is, saying that it is the biggest he has done so far and that it took him three months, with the help of local school boys who filled in some of the white, to complete it. Before he was chosen to do the mural, he had to send a copy of the work done on cloth to France. The mural is a whirl of activity — babies in cradles, a market scene, bulls ploughing a field — capturing the various facets of life in his village.


At present though, he's painting on small squares of cloth and selling them for about Rs. 300 a piece. He's also painting the stick-like wiggly tribal figures on pots, dupattas, t-shirts, bags, saris, table-cloths... anything you want. The t-shirt painting costs between Rs. 50 and Rs. 100, depending on the amount of detail you want on it. Customers can bring the material to be painted. And if you're really into art, he doesn't object to you observing him do the painting and picking up the nuances.

Originally the murals were done on red mud or cow dung layered walls and the figures were painted with a rice-flour mix, which could be washed off and re-painted every season. Now, however, the artists mix glue into the mud base and use acrylic paints to make their work endure. Shantaram also does murals in homes and on office walls at Rs. 175 a sq. foot. He's got a great eye for proportion and scaling up or down a mural to a particular size — even to the size of a tile — isn't a problem for him.

Shantaram will be at Contemporary Arts and Crafts, 45, C.P. Ramaswamy Road, Alwarpet, between 10 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. and between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., for the rest of the week. For details call 24997069 or 24660159.

SHALINI UMACHANDRAN

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