Ramachandraiah's Kalahasti kalamkari paintings lay emphasis on finer details

P. Ramachandraiah is soft spoken, self-effacing and it takes some amount off prodding to make him talk. He admits he is better off as a painter than talking about it. The state award winning artist who hails from Kalahasti belongs to a family that has been specialising in the art of kalamkari over generations. “Kalamkari paintings, especially large ones, cannot be done by a single person. We work in small groups. My children join me at work after their school hours,” says the artist who has been perfecting the art for 35 years.

The artist whose paintings are on sale at the Malkha shop, explains, “Kalahasti style of kalamkari is a 23-step process. For a large painting, it can take up to two months for us to complete the outline and another month to do the colouring. If you go wrong at any step, be it during the treating of clothes, drawing or dyeing, you need to start all over again.”

He chooses to work with mythological themes and emphasises on finer details. “Most artists are content with outlining a story. I like to explore lesser known characters and their background. For example, instead of limiting Ramayana to the times of Luva and Kusa, I like to paint about the times they lived in, their children and so on. Ramayana and Mahabharata offer a wealth of stories and characters,” he says.

At the exhibition, kalamkari wall hangings narrate stories of Matsya avatar, Tripura Surasamharam, Rama Pattabhishekam, Sita Kalyanam, Krishna leela and Kurukshetra. Also on display are stories of lord Ganesha and a kalamkari favourite, Tree of Life. Smaller paintings of flowers, birds and figures are priced at Rs. 320 and the larger paintings go up to Rs. 9000.

The Kalahasti kalamkari technique begins with the treatment of cloth with myrobalan (harda) and milk, preparation of dyes, drawing, painting and dyeing. This is followed by washing the cloth several times in running water in different stages.

“We use only natural dyes obtained from vegetables and other natural ingredients,” says Ramachandraiah. The artist has also exhibited his works as part of events organised by the Crafts Council of AP and at Kalakshetra, Chennai.

The exhibition ends today and can be viewed at Malkha shop, KVIB, Humayun Nagar. Ph: 040-23325548.