Indian traditional art is witnessing a modern revolution. And the art market loves it|

Indian traditional art is witnessing a modern revolution.  And the art market loves it|

Ethnic and cultural artists are exploring new ways of telling stories, experimenting with colors, styles and contemporary themes, connecting with new, mainstream audiences.

Ethnic and cultural artists are exploring new ways of telling stories, experimenting with colors, styles and contemporary themes, connecting with new, mainstream audiences.

The unusual heat of September and the busy place for a while, does not stop Rupsona. A traditional pattachitra singer, who hails from Pingla district, West Bengal, recites his scrolls in song, armed with a powerful voice. Undeterred by visitors trying to capture his art on camera, he points to his canvas and sings of the playful love that Radha and Krishna share. Recently, his canvases have been telling stories related to society: of women’s infantide, the tsunami of 2004, and even the life of Mother Teresa.

At one of the recently completed Craft Council’s Artisans Collective in Chennai, a pichwai cow decorated with festive jewels dominates a stretched canvas, against the backdrop of an unexpected monochrome grid. A facing Warli artist holds cloths there traditionally tarp The dance and geometric figures are now replaced by the Tree of Life, painted in acrylic. Nearby, Bhil artists display the Hindi alphabet drawn in their traditional style to introduce children to the tribal art form.

A warli image depicting the Tree of Life

A warli image depicting the Tree of Life | Credit Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Indian traditional art forms, a treasure with deep cultural roots, therefore adapt to the changing attitudes of domestic and international art consumers: with contemporary themes, social messages and experimental methods. . The reasons are many: wider reach and exposure, the changing needs of different customers, and their desire for artists to be recognized and promoted as a brand. “All this, without compromising on the art,” recalls Mala Dhawan of A Hundred Hands, a Bengaluru-based organization bridging the gap between consumers and artisans.

Although Hindu mythological figures and Nature are still the main themes of centuries old art and culture. , careful the creativity of artists of the third, fourth and fifth generations presents new ways of telling stories.

Now, pichwai cows or Kamdhenus – loyal friends of Radha and Shrinathji, often a silent witness to all his Leela – they can also be opponents. Naveen Soni, a third-generation pichwai artist from Nathdhwara, Rajasthan, depicts the cow as a multifaceted figure: the painting takes place within its decorated body, while Krishna and Radha reappear . It’s somewhat understated, and will easily fit into a home with modern decor.

Pichwai artist Naveen Soni with his 'optical illusion' work

Pichwai artist Naveen Soni with his ‘optical illusion’ work | Credit Credit: RAVINDRAN R

Naveen says: “We have incorporated some modern subjects into these paintings, while sticking to the traditional style of painting.” Modernization, according to Naveen, also means the marriage of elements from different schools of the same cultural pattern that emerged in the 17th Century, revolving around the central figure of Shrinathji. Pointing to the canvas, he explains, “Here, you can see trees from different schools of Indian painting like the Kishangarh school and the Pahadi school in one painting.” Normally, pichwai inspired from flora-fauna themes is unheard of, but Naveen has created his own with birds, trees and other animals – except kamdenu – to keep up with the changing needs of his customers.

It has only been four months since he introduced his ‘optical illusion works’ to the market. “At shows, most of the works of optical illusion are sold on the first day itself!” And many are bought for office buildings and workplaces, more than houses. “It takes time, and it’s a different skill.”

“As much as we would like to improve, it is important to preserve the quality of the art,” says Gond artist Bhajju Shyam, from Patangarh, Madhya Pradesh, home of the indigenous Gond Pradhan tribe. No greater authority can comment on the development of folk art than Bhajju: in the last ten years he reimagined Gond art, which relies heavily on animal forms, in imaginative ways from the murals of Delhi and Singapore to hard-hitting children’s books, such as. The London Jungle Book by Tara Books where The Big Ben is Gond hen. Symbols guided by nature, themes and legends are always the same in his works.

Rupsona, the pattachitra singer, with his scrolls

Rupsona, the pattachitra singer, in his scrolls | Credit Credit: RAVINDRAN R

One purpose of the Padma Shri award is to introduce the art form to the galleries. Speaking from Delhi, where he is exhibiting with contemporary artist Manjunath Kamath, Bhajju says, “It is these kinds of interactions that force us to think in a modern way.” Singapore’s Little India, Bhajju’s collaboration with contemporary Singaporean artist Sam Lo has resulted in a landmark (Broadway Hotel) that celebrates Nature.

Translating the traditional form to the walls required a lot of learning, Bhajju says: it took him a while to get used to the idea of ​​stencils and spray paint. But he sees this change as a gateway to mainstream audiences. “It serves as a way to preserve the gods we worship, and our Adivasi stories and traditions,” says Bhajju.

Gond artist Bhajju Shyam experiments with stencils

Gond artist Bhajju Shyam is experimenting with stencil | Photo Credit: special arrangement

The market and its opinions are many

Adapting to today’s market did not happen overnight. “For example,” says Mala, “this year, we took the five signs led by Nature, and created a mood board that looks at patterns and colors, more than shapes. Most of our traditional shapes are not is the background of the design. In this way, the craftsman has to think differently.” Consumer feedback plays an important role in understanding what you can get from art. People come into stores asking, ‘what’s new?'” New buyers don’t want to see the same elephant being chased for of every job. They also want choice, and they see value in it,” says Mala. “It also inspires artists.”

Pichwai motifs and elements set against a monochrome grid, 'optical illusion'

Pichwai motifs and elements set against the monochrome, ‘optical illusion’ grid | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Today’s artist has moved from recreating to expressing one’s thoughts and expressions, says curator Tulika Kedia, whose Delhi-based Must Art Gallery has worked closely with traditional art like Madhubani, warli, Kalighat , Phad, Gond, Kerala murals and pattachitra. , twenty years ago. Tulika says: “Nowadays, we see public debates, political changes, contemporary life events, dreams, misfortunes, all of them are shown in pictures.

Bhajju credits this pivot, albeit a slow one, to the last decade. He says, “People have been looking for our pictures in their homes and in their collections, which is encouraging.” And they are willing to spend money. Naveen says: “When we were at the exhibitions in Delhi before the epidemic, many people said they did not want to buy works with ‘cows’. Many were also not interested in religious images. That’s when we went Note that if we have to stay in the market, we have to bring new courses that can be registered anywhere.

Recently, there has also been an encouraging movement among art-savvy young people in their 20s and 30s, who make up a large part of their clientele. Tulika says, “There is a strong understanding and respect for traditional art. They visit entertainment venues, go on heritage trips, participate in workshops, and invest.”

Miniature art, known for its painstaking detail

Miniature art, known for its painstaking details | Credit Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

New customers, like most IT entrepreneurs, are really interested in investing in traditional art, says Mala. “We have seen Gond artists who were selling art for ₹5000, 10 years ago, now selling for ₹1 to 1.5 lakhs. That only comes with appreciation,” added Mala.

That said, the pandemic has forced the arts and crafts market to become more competitive. “People are now more cautious. If a person spends ₹20,000 or ₹30,000 for a piece of art, he will not think twice about moving to ₹35,000 or 50,000. But if I want a piece of art for ₹600 to 800, I probably won’t spend ₹1500 again. There is a huge market for the latest,” says Mala. Creative and contemporary art falls into the latter category, as their clientele is young.

As they face the mainstream, young artists are optimistic about this change. After all, it is what keeps art relevant throughout the ages. But they also recognize the sanctity of the image, and are not willing to compromise when it comes to skill and effort. Navin concludes by saying, “It is important that you are friendly. At the end of the day, that’s what art is about, isn’t it?

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