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Updated: January 23, 2010 15:14 IST

Vivid, riveting work

Pushpa Chari
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DELICATE AND LYRICAL: Anju Datta, Madhubani artist. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao
The Hindu DELICATE AND LYRICAL: Anju Datta, Madhubani artist. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

With Radha and Krishna as central figures, the Madhubani paintings are awash with colour.

Anju Dutta lives in Chennai but the inspiration for her Mithila or Madhubani art comes from Madhubani village in Bihar. Here, over the years, an evocative form of folk art developed depicting lyrical images of Ras Leela performed amidst a riot of fantastic flowers and twisting vines, animals and birds of paradise. Once done in vegetable colours as ‘dhuli' or floor painting, the art morphed into wall painting depicting Radha-Krishna Ras Leela as well as ritual wedding processions and so on done by ladies for special occasions. It was discovered by a foreign couple by chance and within years, took the art world by storm with its vivacity and charm. Today it is done on paper, silk and canvas.

Stylised figures

The hallmark of Madhubani painting is typically stylised figures with elongated ‘fish' eyes and an angular sensibility. While fantasy flowers in trees with outsized leaves form the background, it is the central figures of Krishna in ultra marine blue or Radha in Basanti yellow which are riveting. With eyes boldly outlined, a multi-coloured flute or a bejewelled Radha juxtaposed with Krishna, the paintings are awash with colour. Bright oranges, auspicious yellows, shades of green, deep red and blue vie for attention, brilliant, psychedelic, but never garish.

Anju has dressed up many Chennai walls with Madhubani collages. She learnt by observing her mother and drew from the treasure trove of the epics, stories for her themes. “The Leela of Radha and Krishna can be done in a thousand ways,” says Anju as she holds up her painting juxtaposing torans and leafy trees, flowers and twisting vines, peacocks and dance, and Radha and Krishna in embrace. It is an evocative piece, which she says she finished in about five days. According to her, the wall or cloth has to be prepared with cow dung mixture. When the surface is dry, she directly draws the outline on it with kalam. For this, she uses poster and fabric colours. Anju Dutta's Madhubani art forms part of the Chitrakaar exhibition presented by the Central Cottage Industries Emporium.

Mughal miniatures and Pichwai art done by artists from Rajasthan are the other outstanding works on view. Done with vegetable and mineral colours, with a bristle brush, the paintings are distinguished by delicate brush strokes and an ethereal feel. Every detail down to expressions and fabric drapes are brought out with a subtle touch.

Also showcased at Chitrakaar are Tibetan tankhas, executed with a combination of finesse and bold colours. A fusion of ‘dhokra' metal figures with Warli art frames are stunningly innovative. The black and white Warli art frames offer a perfect counter-poise to the primal dancing figures.

The exhibition is on till January 25 at the Central Cottage Industries Corporation, Temple Towers, 572 Anna Salai, Nandanam.

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