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Monthly Archives: November 2014

  • Kolam: Bringing Art to Every Indian Doorstep

    Kolam, the South Indian counterpart of Rangoli is similar as well as dissimilar in several ways. It is strikingly beautiful and generally a blend of myriad hues. Traditionally done using edible rice powder in order to feed ants, crows and other birds, it is also drawn using synthetic powders such as chalk and artificially coloured powders. Many communities organise Best Kolam competitions, in which hundreds of artist participate and the best ones are felicitated.

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    [Image Credits: McKay Savage - Flickr]

    Kolam is drawn on the floor by taking help of a fine grid of equidistant dots carefully placed. Powder is then sprinkled around the dots in different patters which give rise to a network of motifs, which are either filled with colours or left empty. The lines drawn around the dots are purposefully closed and not left open so as to evade the entry of evil powers into the kolam as well as the house. These carpets of powdered rice are a common spectacle on the doorway of almost every South Indian house. It is associated with bringing prosperity and happiness to the home and is also a way of welcoming guests. This carpet is drawn each day in the morning and is wiped off by the day’s end as people pass by or due to wind or water.

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    [Image Credits: Simply CVR - Flickr]

    The Kolams are decorated with diyas during festivals such as onam, pongal, weddings etc. The rice kolams are drawn specifically for the ants, so that they needn’t wander away from their homes in search of food, rather they may find a source somewhere near their holes. Gods and goddesses’ figures are also drawn by many while many make use of modern- abstract or geometric art.

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    [Image Credits: bratboy76 - Flickr]

    Indians have a passion to decorate almost everything in their own special way. Kolam or Rangoli is  one such effort of decorating the entrance of homes and temples, and at the same time opening the doors to many kinds of blessings from the Supreme Power.

     

  • Batik: Blending India into a foreign art form

    This Japanese art has spread far and wide so subtly that it has mixed with the indigenous cultures of the lands it migrated to. The entire Indian sub-continent, China, Indonesia, Nigeria and many other countries have adopted this art of colouring the cloth. The workmanship of each differs in the way the pattern is laid, but still there are many parallels and similarities that exist. Each one is beautiful in its own way, and each one is worn by inhabitants of the global village.

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    A batik fabric that has been waxed and dyed, but still has the wax in it. [Image Credits: Rossie - Flickr]

    Wax is among those diverse raw materials that have use in almost all art forms, be it the Bronze sculptures, paintings, batik etc. Batik employs the technique popularly known as wax-resist dying wherein the dye is resisted to reach the entire fabric by putting wax as a hindrance in the path of the dye. Batik in today’s time uses several motifs that are specific to the regions where the design is being made. The cloth after being decorated with the wax, immersed in a colour bath. The wax resists the dye, while the wax-free cloth surfaces get dyed.  The wax is later removed with boiling water.

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    A batik craftswoman brush painting with wax. [Image Source: wikipedia.org]

    The Indian Batik Print has also left its influence on different regions of the world. In 17th century, one of the Malaysian Kings even imported over 100 pieces of the Indian Batik Cloth; owing to a sea mishap only 4 could reach his court. It is considered to be as old as 2000 years and is seen in all Indian markets. Even in India the patterns are the feature of the region of produce. Rajasthani Batik shall differ from Gujrati which may in turn differ from  a Batik piece dyed in South India. Not only are these prints used for dressing purposes but are increasingly being used to decorate walls and homes. They are used for designing table mats, tea coasters, curtains, bed-sheets, ladies purses, shoes and almost every other item that has some use of cloth.

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    A collection of Indian batik prints [Image Credits: Avital Pinnick - Flickr]

    Many Indian schools for the differently-abled coach the trainees in this art as a part of the vocational training that is imparted to them so that they can earn a livelihood for themselves. The Indian motifs range from flowers to animal prints; elephants and peacocks top the list. Human figures amidst greenery are also beautifully depicted in this art form. The modern batik prints are more abstract and may also have alphabets and religious verses or emblems on them.

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    Batik prints at the Indian Arts Exhibit organized by Poompuhar last year at CP Ramaswami Aiyer Gallery, Chennai. [Image Credits: balaji shankar venkatachari - Flickr]

    India has such a vast culture and artisan population that whatever it imbibes into its heritage becomes an intricate part and it becomes impossible to judge whether it is a borrowed form of art or a native variety that originated and adapted itself on this pious land.

  • Women, Art and Livelihood

    “A woman is a school, if you teach her, she can teach an entire generation.”

    In a country like India where women constitute nearly 50% of the total population the need for their educational and vocational training becomes indispensible. In today’s world many of them are the man as well as women of their household; in order to balance these two very unrelated worlds she needs to be properly trained. She should realise that if due to some reasons academic education wasn’t her fortune, vocational training coupled with some basic or no academic education can make her ordeal easier.

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    A snapshot from the year long workshop in Srirangam.

    South India flaunts a high literacy rate, and in order to strengthen many a households and make Art flow in their blood, Poompuhar with the assistance of the Government of Tamilnadu organised a yearlong training programme in Thanjavur Painting that trained 100 women. The programme was announced on May 6th 2013 by the then Hon’ble Chief Minister Jayalalithaa under Rule 110 in the Legislative Assembly and it commenced from November 6th 2013 at Srirangam.

    The 100 women participants underwent a rigorous training that made them master an art that has lived for hundreds of years now and was promoted by the fore-forefathers during the reign of the Marathas. The candidates, on the completion of the course, were presented with an Artisan Identity Card issued from the Office of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), a Handicrafts Registration Certificate issued by the Industries Department and a Training Completion Certificate by Mr. Pa. Mohan , Honourable Minister for Rural Industries and Labour.

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    A trainee felicitated during the Closing Ceremony of the year long workshop.

    The Closing Ceremony was a grand affair observed on the 5th of November 2014 at the Sri Sringeri Vidhya Bharathi Bhawan, Srirangam, Trichy. 5 kiosks displayed the work of the artists for sale at the venue, each bearing the art of 20 skilled Thanjavur style painters. The work was on display for exhibition cum sale purposes and was witnessed and appreciated by a whole lot of dignitaries that included the Hon’ble Minister for Rural Industries & Labour, the Hon’ble Minister for Khadi, the Hon’ble Government Whip, the Worshipful Mayor of Trichy Corporation, the Principal Secretary to Government, HHT&K Dept., the District Collector, many local MLA’s and MP’s and the Chairperson & Managing Director, THDC Ltd.

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    Highlights from Sri Sringeri Vidhya Bharathi Bhawan where the Closing Ceremony took place on the 5th of November, 2014

    The entire project had cost a good Rs. 83 lakhs but the end result was even more promising and valuable. We at Poompuhar look forward to bring positive changes in many more lives and to make Art and Craft an inseparable part of the rich Indian Heritage and Culture.

  • Nataraja: The Embodiment of Cosmos

    Indian art has for long been ruled by religious motifs. From the ancient times to the current era every form of art has a special topmost place for the bearers of religion. Lord Shiva who is famous for his dance the ‘thandavam’, is as much an art lover as the artists love to depict him. He is popularly known as ‘Natraja’, which literally means the ‘raja’ (King) of ‘Natiyam’ (Dance). All the Indian temples and particularly those of South India  flaunt images of Shiva-the cosmic dancer in various forms of art, the most common being the celebrated bronzes that are the tiara to all the other items of display in many-a-museums.  Shiva - the destroyer is among the 3 triad of energy that form the very base of the Hindu faith.  Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance form native to the state of Tamil Nadu has most of its moves inspired from Shiva’s dance.

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    Nataraja Thandavam [Image Credits: Balu Velachery - Flickr]

    The bronze statue of Nataraja is encircled in a sphere of the cosmic fire. The image radiates innumerable signifiers and readers of art read them in myriad ways. One of the vastly discussed aspects is the constant creation and destruction of the universe. His four hands; the two upper ones and the lower have their specific significance. The lower left hand calls for spirituality and the contentment that generates when one gives up ones baser wants. The lower right hand encourages the followers to perform good deeds while the upper right hand bears a damru that depicts time as it slips away. The upper left hand holds fire a symbol of destruction; thus the left and right upper hands demonstrate the creation and passage of time through the damru while the fire depicts the anger and destruction Shiva encompasses if need be.

    The birth of the Nataraja bronzes is age-old but tracing the place and time of origin with 100% precision is nearly impossible. The farthest the archaeologists have wandered is the 11th century. The first image of Natraja was found at Thillai Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram, but the historians do not establish it as the place where it was first made. Chidambaram is though often cited as the birthplace of the Bronze Nataraja. Shiva, who is usually represented in the form of Lingam, is rarely sculpted with human-like characteristics, thus this bronze deity holds a special place in the hearts of his devotees.

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    Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram [Image Credits: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra - Flickr]

    It is not only the Indian subcontinent that holds this image high but across cultures and lands the Nataraja image has gained immense popularity and words of appreciation.  Fritjof Capra, a well known American Physicist relates the cycle of creation and destruction to all forms of matter. CERN, European Centre for Nuclear Research, Geneva also flaunts a very tall statue that was installed in 2004.

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    Nataraja statue at CERN, Geneva where the God Particle was discovered [Image Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CERN_shiva.jpg]

    This bronze sculpture has lived at least through the Pallava, Chola, Pandava Dynasties till the present age and shall also continue to rule the Indian art for ages to come.

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    A bronze Nataraja statue sculpted by Poompuhar artisans of the 21st Century using the Chola bronze technique

     

  • Traversing many a moons of Indian Painting Styles

    Indian Art is among the most diverse forms of art found in any political state. An onlooker may notice the variations that occur in the span of a few miles. The South Indian paintings differ from the North Indian style and the latter differ from the North-eastern style and among these styles too, different cities have a distinct peculiar touch to them. What is fascinating to know is the fact that almost each to these styles haven’t taken birth in the recent years but are remnants of times gone by. Many among them have adapted with respect to the need of the time, while very many are potent enough to wade off all the chances of undergoing alteration.

    The earliest Indian Paintings date back to 10,000 B.C. These were carved on the walls of caves. Throughout the Indian history we come across instances from the Vedas that assert the fact that paintings have always been a preferred form of art. The court of most of the Indian emperors adorned beautiful works of art and therefore the artists were mostly provided with a climate hospitable for honing their skills and were awarded prizes.

    Paintings are done on leaves, paper, cloth, canvas, gold leaf, mica, wood etc. The art forms of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and entire Southern India, are lauded for their uniqueness all over the world.

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    Bhimbetka Cave Paintings dated 1500 - 20000 B.C. [Image Credits - Raveesh Vyas - Flickr]

    The Indian painting styles have constantly flowed from one era to the other. The ancient medieval and modern eras have their own individuality but there is somewhere that common thread, you may not be able to describe but it definitely will make you say, “That’s an Indian work of art!” Indian cave paintings top the chronological list. The list of these wall paintings includes the famous Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Bhimbekta, Bagh etc,

    The Medieval India takes us to the court of the Mughals and the Marathas and the Rajputs - the crowning period for Indian art and architecture. Each of these emperors worked towards making sure that they shall leave behind artefacts that’ll portray their majesty and love for art. The Indo-Islamic form of painting was a pristine addition to the Indian style and is cherished even hundreds of years hence. The Thanjavur or Tanjore paintings are trademark of the Marathas. These elaborately designed and ornate pictures are the bestsellers of South India. Gods and goddesses are the images of prime focus. The Rajput paintings that are said to be coloured with the Mughal style are known for their quality. There are varied number of schools that fall under this art and each one has its own prowess to exhibit.

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    Babur Receives a Courtier, 1589, Farrukh Baig, Mughal dynasty [Image Credits -Wikipedia.org]

    Modern Indian Paintings started to change the face of the Indian style. The British intervention was clearly visible initially. The paintings changed to portraits with subdued hues and less or no embellishments. The Madras School of Art was set up by the British in the mid 19th century, this is where intermingling of cultures initiated. The foreign rulers trained the Indian artists in the kind of art that was in demand across the English Channel. The artists used both urbane as well as indigenous paints. The Madras School of Art has lived through the period of independence and thrives until today.

    The Bengal School of Arts is an even contemporary art academy that was founded as late as the 20th century, during the rule of the British Empire but not backed by them. It has more to do with the rebels; the patriots. The paintings thus composed had a stroke of nationalism. It took birth amid a scenario of rebellion and protests when the Indian artists refused the extrinsic forces to rule their minds and dexterity. Many modern day artists find a close association with this school of reformers.

    Raja Ravi Varma the well read artist hailing from the state of Kerala is a revered name in the chronicles of Indian Art. He has his innate style where he imperceptibly mixed the art forms of Europe and the Indian sub continent. He developed art works that depicted the Indian heritage, art and culture but the modus operandi was primarily English.

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    Shakuntala looking back to glimpse Dushyanta,1870, Raja Ravi Varma [Image Credits -Wikipedia.org]

    The contemporary times are times of globalisation in a single global village called the Earth. Artists take inputs from various schools of art spread all over the planet and make an amalgamation which is novel in its form and is a fusion of multiple techniques. Artists paint abstract together with hard core reality. M.F. Husain, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Francis Newton Souza are a few contemporary legacies that have left this world only to be remembered till eternity.

  • Thanjavur Oviyam: Interplay of Intricacy & Vibrance

    South Indian Art speaks for itself and Thanjavur Paintings are among the most prized and preserved form of art that are known for their unique composition. Centuries after centuries this art form has only adapted itself with the contemporary times and is thus in vogue today, even though hundreds of years have passed since it was first brought to the public. Thanjavur has a rich history with UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, paintings, bronze art, wooden sculptures, dance and music. The Thanjavur kings have been held in high esteem and are known for their administration and valour.

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    Thanjavur Painting of Gopala Krishna alongside a gopika

    Thanjavur style of painting is as ancient as 1600 AD and derives its roots from the Nayakas and the Marathas. The Marathas developed a conducive environment which made artists thrive in this particular skill. Serfoji II the great Maratha ruler made innumerable contributions to Thanjavur paintings and helped them take the form they currently exhibit. The painters were primarily Kshatriyas or warriors and this is evident up to this age as they suffix 'Raja' after their name.

    These paintings are prepared on materials such as wood, glass, ivory, murals, mica etc. Initially they also had precious and semi-precious stones embedded in them. Many of the Hindu Manuscripts that date until the 19th century AD have several pages dedicated to Tanjore Paintings. They canvas is majorly known to paint Hindu deities and brave rulers, though many among them also depict characters which gives a secular colour to this art that uses vivid colours that are a spectacle to every eye. The character of central importance generally enjoys greater canvas-space and is thus quite large than the other items shown. The image flaunts a 3-D effect. The luminous greens, brilliant yellows and intense reds are so spell-bounding that they are a must in almost every South Indian household and a souvenir that most of the tourists prefer to house. The artist as well as the buyer is happy to see the end results and enjoys owning it.

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    A Thanjavur Painting in process [Image Credits - The Hindu]

    Owing to some changes and replacements in the style the artists had started to gain lesser profits. This resulted in a number of artist drop outs and Thanjavur Paintings were included in dying art forms. Poompuhar actively engages in conducting workshops and exhibitions that help create a market for various kinds of arts that belong to South India. A while ago, we initiated a year long training programme exclusively for women that skilled them in the art of Thanjavur Painting. 100 women enrolled in this programme that is all set to mark its end in November 2014. We at Poompuhar ensure that each Indian art form gets its due and stays viable to be witnessed and appreciated by generations to come.

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    Poompuhar's one-year training program in Thanjavur Painting at Vasantham Kalyana Mandapam, Srirangam

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