Usha Ravindran combines traditional painting methods with Thanjavur themes to weave magic.

Fusion and innovation take interesting forms in many craft genres, reflecting today's trends in both traditional and studio crafts. Usha Ravindran combines Mysore's 18th century glass painting techniques with Thanjavur themes to suggest a more mellow style with a rich and antique look.

In another unusual experiment, she has done embossed painting on OHP transparency sheets as well as created patina work pieces on wooden boards. Each of her innovations opens new ways of looking at traditional craft in concept, format and process.

Usha employs the traditional glass painting techniques. While themes such as Radha Krishna, Butter Krishna, Ganesa and Saraswati follow the contours and expressions of the Thanjavur art form, the process of depiction and detailing follows the reverse painting process. The gold leaf jewellery is done first followed by the shape of the figures, clothing etc., with the background being done last, along with the eyes.

Eye for detail

The innovative touches are the use of oil paints, done with a zero number brush, and silk and printed cloth stuck in the background to set off the colours of the artwork. The detailing in the gold painting to denote jewellery and clothes is eye-catching. Usha has a fine eye for depicting facial expressions of the gods and goddesses. A superbly done Radha Krishna glows like an antique bit of jewellery as does a Ganesa resplendent on a lotus.

Her jewellery pieces done on a silk frame also deserve special mention. Says Usha, “I use the images of antique jewellery in my work, but instead of doing it on marble as is traditionally done in Rajasthan, I depict the design on the OHP transparency sheet. I emboss the design with gold paint and also use metallic paint and semi precious stones. Once again, the background is fabric. Normally jewellery mounting is done on marble. I have also made a few pieces of patina painting. This is an interesting art which has a touch of medieval magic and is becoming popular for its old world look. The process too is fascinating. A wooden board is first framed. This is then coated with several layers of paste made up of gypsum and ceramic powder. This forms the canvas on which the outline is sketched. Once the outline is ready, I begin to paint with water colours. After the painting is completed, I add gold or copper highlights for that antique finish. It takes about 15-20 days to finish one such piece as each layer has to dry before the next layer can be worked on.”

The proceeds of the sale of Usha's paintings and murals will be donated to Prashanti School for Slow Learners at Kozhikode in Kerala.

The exhibition, called ‘Usha's Creations', is on view at The Malayalee Club, 28, Club Road, Srinivasa Nagar, Chetpet on March 27 and 28.

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