Radhakrishna Bandagadde has revived the long forgotten art of Hase Chitra. His works will be displayed at the exhibition of the Hundred Hands collective

Attend a wedding in Karnataka's Malnad region (around the Shimoga and Karwar districts) and you will observe an art form unique to this region akin to the Worli style.

This is the Hase Chitra, a tribal art form that traditionally celebrates nature. Built on simple geometric patterns to create intricate designs, the USP of the art form is its medium — mud. Radhakrisha Bandagadde is almost like Hase Chitra's urban icon, bringing mud painting to the city through the NGO, A Hundred Hands.

“I have been fascinated by Hase Chitra since I was a child, when I used to see it during weddings. I forgot all about it when I went to college. But whenever I saw any art, I would think of Hase Chitra. So once I came back from college, I started learning the art,” says Radhakrishna.

“The interesting thing about it is that our folk artists used mud and herbal colours with rice, leaves or seeds. They didn't use a brush, they used paddy sticks. All the materials were 100 per cent local. They used only red and white. But I experiment with different colours. Our area in Malnad has so many different colours of soils.”

Radhakrishna has his own studio in Sagar where he experiments with different techniques and forms. “Every mud has its own depth and characteristics. Whenever I see any attractive colours in the mud, leaves, or seeds, I pick it up, crush it and leave it in water overnight. The next morning there is a layer of cream on top. Then I mix the cream with gum, usually the edible gum from trees or even Fevicol. During festivals, we usually use the colours from leaves. And then I begin painting. Recently, I tried using the blade technique and hand prints,” he explains.

According him, every Hase painting is done using basic lines and shapes.

“I think Hase Chitra provides an easy platform for aspiring artists. It incorporates basic shapes in nature — birds, animals, trees and even the human body. Once when I was taking an art workshop, a senior artist from Shantiniketan told me, “We're all artists. But I learnt the basics of art today.”

He says he has had many beautiful experiences in his journey as a Hase Chitra artist.

“When I was working in my studio one day, an old widow walked into my studio. She observed my paintings for a while and told me since her husband's death, this was the first time that she was happy. I believe art has the strength to heal.”

This was how his sojourn with A Hundred Hands began. “Mala, the founder trustee, walked into my studio one day. She had come from Bangalore and she wanted to learn the art. She gave me the idea of taking my art forward to the city. I'm from the village, so I don't know how these things work. So after that I began to apply my art to different objects including files, textiles, greeting cards, books and I keep looking for something new to take my art forward.”

Radhakrishna has even dappled with Mexican and Nigerian motifs and has managed to seamlessly integrate them into his art.

“I see designs everywhere from temple walls to Rajasthani bed sheets and cement murals. I'm basically an organic farmer and I work with nature, so I appreciate all the colours in nature. I have always been experimenting since childhood. Working on Hase Chitra is like meditating. The art is simple and complicated at the same time. I have learnt so many things, yet there is so much more to learn. That is its strength and beauty.”

Radhakrishna will be showcasing his art at the Hundred Hands Collective, a non-profit event that will showcase contemporary handcrafted items from over 50 artisans and groups ranging from Gond paintings, Sanjhi art to weaves and accessories.

The collective will take place between November 23 and 27 at 4, Ashley Road, behind Hotel Ajanta, off Brunton Road (near M.G Road).

For details, contact 9880714405 or 9845008482.

Keywords: Hase Chitrafolk art