The ‘Indian Paintings’ on show derive their themes from epics, legends and depict Gods and Goddesses.

‘Indian Paintings’ presented by Poompuhar is a pageant of the country’s traditional art forms depicting India’s mysticism, epic narratives, legends, gods and goddesses both in their pristine form and evolving imagery. While a strong spiritual thread binds the paintings, distinctive styles, formats and techniques give each painting its own unique identity.

On view at ‘Indian Paintings’ are the ‘antique’ Tanjores, which attained their apogee of excellence under Sarfoji Maharaj in the 18th century, Mysore’s lyrical glass paintings, Kerala’s mural art that once adorned temple walls, the temple-based patachitras of Odisha, Rajasthan’s vibrant Phad scroll paintings (which have through the ages retold the epics to rural audiences), tribal tales on silk and reproduction of Rajput miniatures.

“Kerala mural art with its strong stylistic content and colours is my passion” says artist Srinidhi, “it’s a ninth century art done traditionally on Kerala temple walls. I do mural art on waterproof board following practically the same processes used for wall art. I begin with an application of 8-10 coats of white distemper mixed with water. When the board is dry it is sand papered, which gives the canvas the smoothness of a wall. Drawing on the board is freehand, but one has to keep in mind certain sastric principles. The themes are from the Epics, gods and goddesses amidst rich foliage, etc. Only five colours are used in mural art: yellow, green, red, black and white - all made out of stone, turmeric, leaf and flower.”

The painting process

Srindhi explains how the colours are prepared in coconut shells and the actual brush strokes done with a squirrel hairbrush. “The painting process is mainly about strong outlines done in yellow superimposed by red and black. Filling follows the outlining,” says the artist. Her striking frames of Ganesha, Lakshmi and Bhagwati are awash with auspicious yellows and greens with jewellery picked out in red tones.

National awardee Panner Selvam’s Tanjores cover a wide arc from Ravi Verma to ISKCON Krishna reproductions done in the Thanjavur style. His Ravi Verma rendering of the ‘Women of India’ is stunning.

Equally compelling are State awardee Selvaraj’s ‘antique’ Thanjavur frames, gleaming with old gold. Particularly striking are Selvaraj’s unusual compositions of Ras Leela and an all-gold resplendent Lakshmi, apart from a nuanced Meenakshi Kalyanam in old gold among the many large frames.

Physically challenged artist C. Shekhar’s batik frames of Ganeshas, Nataraja and elephants bring a new dimension to the exhibition. And Odisha’s Bishnu Prasad Mishra displays his poetic palm leaf paintings and pattachitra art in miniature.

The bold colours of Rajasthan’s Phad art add a vibrant touch to the frames as do the Gond art animals done on paper. With their haunting eyes, infinite grace and scale-filled bodies, the animals are the work of unknown Gond artists. Not to be missed are Rajput and Mughal miniatures done on silk by Rajasthani painters, which combine ethereal delicacy with a burst of colours. ‘Indian Paintings’ is on view at Sri Sankara Hall , TTK Road, Alwarpet till June 23.