The Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, located in the Dasara Exhibition Ground, Mysore, in a novel effort to revive traditional and folk arts, conducted an art camp to bring together 15 renowned artists from various parts of the State onto a single platform. This was one among the various programmes organised by the Directorate as part of its 125th anniversary celebrations. Each of the 15 artists contributed two of their paintings to the Directorate which will be permanently exhibited in its Art Gallery. In this article, the readers are taken on a virtual journey into the world of art where the artists express their opinions both on canvas and through words.
Painting their way to excellence....
A close study of the paintings in Karnataka indicates that instead of reflecting life as it was during those periods, the painters had adopted conventionalised settings and highly stylised postures. Vijayanagar tradition of painting encouraged three distinct schools of painting, namely the Deccani School (Sultanate), Mysore School and the Tanjore School.
While the rulers of Bijapur, Gulbarga and Bidar were responsible for the development of a distinct style known as the Deccani style, the southern parts of Karnataka continued the ancient style which was developed at Vijayanagar and the rulers of Mysore extended patronage to art.
After the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799 AD, the State was restored to its original royal family of Mysore and its ruler Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar (1799 - 1868 A.D.), son of the last Wadiyar King Khasa Chamaraja Wadiyar VIII, introduced a new era by reviving the ancient traditions of Mysore style of painting and extending patronage to music, sculpture and literature. He introduced English education in Mysore and during interactions with the British, Western influences modified the art, which is now known as Mysore School Painting or the New Mysore Painting.
Below are the profiles of 15 artists who participated in the art camp, along with their paintings:
K. S. Srihari from T. Narasipura specialises in pure Mysore style of painting and has a history of four generations of artists in his family. Dr. R. Gopal, Director, Department of Archaeology and Museums, had assigned to him the responsibility of selecting artists who would take part in the camp and one look around the gallery shows what an extraordinary job Srihari has done.
When asked about his journey so far and about his audience, Srihari said: “Since I grew up watching my father and grandfather work in this art style, I also got absorbed into it. And once I got to know the significance and specialty of Mysore style, there was no looking back. However, people don't know the basic difference between Mysore and Tanjore styles. Even though the subjects may seem same in both, the anatomy, dress, etc. are very different. Mysore style was influenced by the royal family, the ornaments and dresses worn by them and the common man. It gives more importance to minute details, where as in Tanjore style, pearls mirrors, etc. are used. It has a rough finishing as compared to Mysore style. These differences have to be taught to the people. That can happen if the Government takes up an interest in art and promotes it through camps. We had previously conducted a summer camp in association with the Dept. to teach children the basics about Mysore style, anatomy and colour schemes. The media also should help us educate people about various art forms.”
Mysore & Tanjore styles:
One feature that distinguishes Mysore painting from others is its gesso decoration. Gesso refers to the paste mixture of white lead powder, gambose and glue which is used as an embossing material and covered with gold foil. The gesso work in Mysore paintings is low in relief and intricate as compared to the thick gold relief work of the Tanjore School. Gesso was used in Mysore paintings for depicting intricate designs of clothes, jewellery and architecture. The work was taken up in the morning when the base of the gold work on the painting was still moist so as to hold the gold foil firmly. After allowing the painting to dry, glazing was done by covering the painting with thin paper and rubbing over it with a soft glazing stone known as kaslupada kallu. When the thin paper was removed, the painting shone brightly with the combination of gold and colours. Mysore and Tanjore paintings share the same lineage of Vijayanagar School. However, there are some identifiable differences between them. Mysore painting is done on paper, stuck up on a wooden board where as the Tanjore painting is done on cloth. Tanjore School used the gold-coated silver wafers to highlight ornaments and specific areas where as Mysore School used a 24 - k pure gold. Tanjore paintings use precious stones like diamond, pearls and rubies; traditional Mysore paintings ignore this kind of embellishment.
|Mysore traditional painting by K.S. Srihari|
Ishwar Nayak from Sagar in Shimoga district has played an important role in reviving the traditional Chittara art. After completing Diploma in Stage Art, he got inspired with the line patterns in Chittara paintings, a trademark of his community, which made him go back to dig into the roots of this dying art form. Ishwar's grandmother and mother were his inspiration and he studied the art for 10 years. He later won a National award in 1998 for his work named “Masterpiece” and Karnataka Rajyotsava award in 2005. Ishwar has set up a school in his village where local women are trained in Chittara art. The Govt. of India has exhibited his work in Hong Kong (2009) and Australia (2010).
In his constant struggle to keep Chittara painting alive, Ishwar has been conducting workshops and training programmes in many places. He gets assignments for decorating of walls of hotels and houses in Bangalore. When asked about the mordernisation of art, he said: “Any art constantly undergoes changes. We keep the basic tradition and look for ways to be innovative. Art constantly needs a new canvas and it can't remain limited.”
Chittara is a depiction of the life of the Deewaru tribals of Malnad region. The paintings are done for special occasions like weddings and festivals and are symbols of brides & grooms, fertility, the sowing of paddy, birds, trees, animals, etc. The central theme is the relation between man and nature and the lines and patterns of the painting symbolises the religious, social or agricultural practices of the community. Colours like white from a mixture of rice paste, red from crushed stone and burnt rice for black are used. Chittara paintings are also used to decorate cane baskets, pen stands, pots, door hangings and walls.
|Chittara art by Ishwar Nayak|
A native of Gulbarga K. S. Parameshwar says he developed interest in painting right from 7th std. He went on to graduate from Visual Arts Garden College, Gulbarga, and is now a lecturer at Sri Kalaniketan College of Visual Arts, Mysore. When asked about the opportunities that artists have in present days, here is what Parameshwar said: “Art school students always have an upper hand when it comes to drawing of any type, be it in animation or even software, as they learn from the basics. They have a better understanding of colour schemes and patterns. Once they complete their training, they can either be a teacher or a freelancer. In Gulbarga, artists finish their training and move to Mumbai. However, artists of Mysore are lucky enough to have Bangalore and Chennai, where there has been an increase in demand for paintings and one can earn from Rs. 35,000 to 40,000 for their work.”
Parameshwar practices folk art and is working on a series called “Power of Bull”, two of which he has now contributed to the Gallery. Explaining about his interest in folk art, he said: “Everything in this world finds its roots in the soil. Modern elements may come and go but what is of the soil stays forever. The same is with folk art. There is always a connection with nature in folk art and this inspired me. We are not immortal but our work is. We can leave behind our paintings for the generations to come and that gives us a sense of satisfaction.”
These are pictorial expressions of village painters marked by the subjects chosen from epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, as well as daily village life, birds, animals, sun, moon, plants and trees. The colour used range from subdued low hues to vibrant colours, but derived from natural materials with papers, clothes, leaves, pots, stone and mud walls used as canvas.
|Folk art by K.S. Parameshwar|
Folk paintings do not emerge in chronological order but has evolved in various region of India depending mainly upon the rural cultures, mythological stories and everyday rituals.
Resident of Mysore, Chandrika is the daughter of the celebrated palace artist Ramanarasaiah. She specialises in Mysore style Ganjifa painting and regularly conducts classes and workshops in an effort to preserve and promote the art. When asked about what more needs to be done for reviving the traditional art, Chandrika said: “The Department has done a commendable job in organising such a workshop. It is rare to see 15 talented artists come and work at one place. However, interaction should be from both sides. People need to take advantages of such workshops and show interest to keep traditional art alive.”
This was a popular card game in ancient India, played extensively during the Mughal period. Ganj is a Persian word meaning "treasure" or "hoard" and the cards have a history of more than 300 years. The cards were inlaid with precious stones and made of ivory and mother – of - pearl. They are generally circular and sometimes rectangular in shape with exquisite paintings on them. Now Ganjifa is now known more for the art work involved rather than the card game. Mysore is the home of Ganjifa Raghupathy Bhatta who strived hard to bring a forgotten ganjifa art back to life.
|Ganjifa painting by Chandrika|
City's H.S. Shivakumar is a drawing teacher in T. Narasipur Government High School. He has also been a freelance artist since 1992 and specialises in traditional miniature and folk painting. “People won't understand the techniques used in paintings when they see them in exhibitions. But in such camps, the visitors can also interact with the artists and gain background knowledge about the paintings,” says Shivakumar.
As an art teacher, he encourages interested students to take exams related to drawing. In many cases, the students will have talent but won't know how to proceed. Shivakumar provides necessary guidance to such students to get into art colleges. His school conducts annual exhibitions and taluk - level workshops. He also takes weekend classes for children. When asked what more can be done, Shivakumar said: “Talented artists from rural areas need sponsors to exhibit their work. Also free coaching camps will encourage people to come forward. Apart from these, we need help from the media. Now – a - days, politics dominate newspapers and art goes to the inside pages. If the media can go hand – in - hand with artists, then promotion of art will get an extra boost. Earlier, children did not have enough encouragement to take up art as a career. But now the trend has changed and parents are also coming forward.”
Indian paintings can broadly be classified as murals and miniatures. Murals are works executed on walls of solid structures, as in Mysore Palace, Ajanta caves etc. Miniature paintings are executed on a very small scale on perishable material such as paper and cloth. Indian miniature paintings are renowned worldwide for their beauty and detailing with its history dating back to the 7th century AD, when Kashmiri miniatures first made their appearance. Miniature painting reached its peak glory during the Mughal period and ever since, the tradition has been carried forward by painters of different schools. As the name signifies, miniature painting is an intricate, colorful painting, small in size, executed meticulously with delicate brushwork.
|Miniature painting by H.S. Shivakumar|
Other artists at the camp:
“The purpose of such camps is that we discover more about other art forms than just our field of specialisation. All artists here have their own styles. It is a great learning experience,” says miniature artist Kamal Ahamed from Gadag. He obtained a Masters degree in Fine Arts from Karnataka University, Dharwad and is now a high school drawing teacher.
|Painting by Kamal Ahamed|
Munimohan from Bangalore is a lecturer at Chitrakala Parishat. He specialises in both traditional and contemporary art forms. Says Munimohan, “In Bangalore, art has gained a lot of importance over the past few years. Even parents are playing their part in educating children about various art forms. However the present generation should not go behind instant fame as art involves a very slow learning process and takes time to gain expertise.” When asked about the secret behind his stunning portrait painting, Munimohan explains [while quickly sketching out various expressions on a sheet]: “It is very important to study the anatomy first. You should spend hours just studying your subject, their expressions, posture and movements. Once you have thoroughly studied that, even if your subject moves out, you will have an impression in your mind and can draw them. And this should be a continuous practice.”
|Portrait by Munimohan|
A resident of Manipal, Udupi, Jayavanth is a Pharmacist by profession and an artist by interest. He is a member of the Artists' Forum in Udupi and specialises in Mangalore style of folk art. When asked about the difference in both the styles, Jayavanth said: “The noticeable difference between Mysore style and Manglorean is that in Mysore they make use of gold which is not present in my art. The large round ear rings, necklaces and other jewellery mainly depict the folk style of Mangalore.” Till date he has had more than 20 exhibitions in various parts of the country
|Folk art by Jayavanth|
Kashinath Venkatesh Kale:
A native of Sandur, K. V. Kale combines the past & present, traditional & modern style in his folk art paintings. Kale tries to bring out the customs and life of Sandur village in a colourful and distinctive form. The bright colours, large round eyes of the subjects and voluptuous male and female figures give a unique touch to his paintings.
|Folk art by Kale|
B. L. Mahesh:
This artist from city is working as a graphic artist at National Testing Service, Central Institute of Indian Languages in city. His extraordinary painting of Tipu Sultan is on display at the gallery.
|Painting by Mahesh|
M. S. Anand:
Also a resident of the city, Anand practices Mysore traditional style and has won the Dasara Award from 1996 to 2002.
|Traditional painting by Anand|
K. S. Umadevi:
City’s Umadevi has been practicing Mysore traditional art for the past 10 years and has received the Dasara award for the same for four years.
|Mysore Traditional art by Uma Devi|
M. V. Kambar:
A resident of Bangalore, Kambar practices Vijayanagar style of art and has won the Lalitha Kala Academy Award in 1981, 1988 and 1992.
|Painting by Kambar|
F. V. Chikmath:
This Dharwad artist has done many solo and group shows across India. Chikmath has received the 22nd Lokamanya Tilak and the Karnataka Lalitha Kala Academy award among many others.
|Painting by Chikmath|
J. S. Sridhar Rao:
A city resident, Sridhar works at Mysore Traditional Art Gallery in Jaganmohan Palace.
|Painting by Sridhar Rao|
(Published in Star of Mysore dated Jan.8, 2011)