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New twists in old artistic styles

Corruption and the Commonwealth Games are the central theme in a Madhubani painting, the 9/11 terror attacks are the story of a patachittra, while pollution finds focus in a Kalighat painting.

art and culture Updated: Dec 25, 2011 01:09 IST
Damini Purkayastha

Corruption and the Commonwealth Games are the central theme in a Madhubani painting, the 9/11 terror attacks are the story of a patachittra, while pollution finds focus in a Kalighat painting. New Visions: Contemporary Traditional Indian Art, an ongoing exhibition in the Capital, brings together the work of internationally acclaimed folk artists from across the country.

Curated by Minhazz Majumdar of The Earth and Grass Workshop, the exhibition is currently on at the India International Centre, Annexe. Among the artists who are a part of the show is Kalum Patua, one of the few surviving Kalighat painters and Padyumna Kumar, a Mithila artist who was the first Indian ever to win the first prize at the UNESCO NOMA Concours in Japan.

“These artists are quite talented, but they live on the edge of poverty. The problem is that we’ve dumbed down our folk art because we want quantity over quality. What we’re trying to do is get back to good work,” explains Majumdar. All the works in the exhibition have been done with detail, sticking to the age old technique. In true folk tradition, they also tell the story of their times. “The subject is the story of today, from the corruption during the Commonwealth Games, to the way women are treated. We are trying to break the notion that folk art is disconnected from contemporary life,” says Majumdar.

On an artistic track
Pushpa Kumari
The first Mithila artist to be represented by the Cavin-Morris art gallery in New York, Kumari’s Madhubani paintings take on contemporary issues

Pradyumna Kumar
An award-winning artist, Kumar was a land surveyor before he took to Mithila art. A book of his works is being published by Mapin in 2012

Kalam Patua
A Kalighat artist, Patua is a postmaster in Bengal. His works are part of the collections in NGMA and the National Museum in Liverpool, UK

The Jogi family
Despite poverty, this family has created their own unique style of art - Jogi Art. They trained under Ganesh Jogi, who began painting after meeting Haku Shah in 1980s.

Chitrakars
Scroll makers and singers, Mantu and Jaba, incorporate modern stories in their pattachitras

Young achiever
Sonia Chitrakar, 13, is the youngest artist in this exhibition. Sonia learnt how to make pattachitras from her parents — Mantu and Jaba — and had her first exhibition in Melbourne University at the age of 10. “I attend school back home in Bengal and I really enjoy studying math, but I want to continue to be an artist when I grow up. I really enjoy telling stories with my work,” she says.

Fact file
What:
New Visions
Where: India International Centre, Annexe, Lodhi Road
When: Till December 28
Nearest Metro Station: Khan Market on the Violet Line