Neelkant Choudhary introduces a new idiom to Madhubani

Remaining loyal to the age-old Madhubani tradition, yet the Baroda-based artist, Neelkant Choudhary manages to create new flavours. The artist experiments with figures and weaves a narrative that is steeped in tradition and modernity. The show of Madhubani paintings relooked and revisited in a contemporary context is on at Gallerie Ganesha in Delhi.

On his canvases, Neelkant creates scenes from everyday life like children going to school, priests on the streets and stage performances. Women recur in his works as the artist feels that drawing women is fascinating as they have an innate vibrancy because of the colours they wear.

In the work titled ‘Market’, he depicts two young Santhali women going to the market carrying load of things. “Sometimes in the remote areas of Santhal you find these young women full of life, laughing, even though they are loaded with so many responsibilities of life at a very young age,” explains Neelkant, a product if University of Punjab, Chandigarh.

‘Women in Black’ has two beautiful dark girls from Bengal wearing bright red flower in their hair, a common practice among the Santhali women.

A strong line is integral to the Mithila-Madhubani art tradition and lines in his Neelkant’s oeuvre certainly belong there. “Over the years, though, Madhubani has broken bounds, adopted new manifestations and expanded its constituency. My works mark a departure not merely of newly and widely imagined themes. I have also brought to the form an entirely new idiom of tone and tenor. Monotones and pastels, for instance, have rarely been infused into the Madhubani art form. Neither have human figures which, in my eyes, become a fascinating fusion of race and geography. This is an entirely novel line of work from my varied portfolio.”

Neelkant also tries to lend expression to the characters which are traditionally expressionless. “Working with lines in the most minute details and trying to give expressions to the characters’ in these paintings, and also changing this traditional painting from very flat to a three-dimensional and perspective effect has been like a great journey. As an artist with a traditional background it was very difficult and also very interesting to break away from the traditional to modern figures and subjects while also trying to work on the traditional lines so as to maintain the familiarity with the traditional paintings,” says the artist.

(The show is on at Gallerie Ganesha E-557, Greater Kailash II, till April 5)