Flora, Fauna, Spirit, an ongoing exhibition at La Gallery 360, is a celebration of indigenous art

Ninety works of art showcase vignettes of nature and rustic life; scenes that one rarely gets to see in a city. Sourced from different places in India, ‘Flora, Fauna, Spirit,' an ongoing exhibition at La Gallery 360, has been curated by Clive and Aryan. The exhibition of framed works makes you stand and stare at the simplicity and, surprisingly, the complexity of each work.

“It was a voyage of discovery that took us to villages in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar and so on. Instead of hitting places on the tourist circuit, we visited villages, market fairs, and small towns and that is where we stumbled upon some of the most exciting craft and art that are mostly created by women,” explains Clive.

It was during his stay in the city that Clive met Aryan, who has been working with different communities on livelihood issues. Aryan acknowledges that it was Clive who opened his eyes to the beauty of the works of the indigenous artists. He points out that most of the time the artisans don't even think of their work as art, as so much of their craft is intimately connected to their lives. “They adorn the walls of their house, floors, doors, windows, clothes, themselves…,” says Aryan.

Floored by the craft

Enthralled by the artistry, Clive and Aryan bought the works, sometimes directly from the artists themselves and sometimes from communes that worked with the artisans. By the time they returned to the city, they had a huge collection of paintings.

“We didn't know what to do with those works. That was when we decided to hold an exhibition-cum-sale of these works. Prior to that, we went to Kochi and got the paintings framed and brought them back to the city in a truck,” says Clive.

Calling themselves the Knitting Circle, the duo plans to organise more such exhibitions in the city. “The theme of spirit encompasses all its meanings, be they from the deities or the vital life force of flora, the plant kingdom, or fauna, the animal kingdom,” says a release from Latha Rajeev Kurien, art curator and proprietor of La Gallery 360.

Pointing to the works, Clive and Aryan talk animatedly about the artist who did the paintings, the kind of craft involved in its creation and so on. While Kalamkari works from Andhra Pradesh recreate popular images of gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, Patachitra works of Orissa, albeit in acrylics, extol the many avatars of Lord Ganesha in a splendid rainbow of warm colours.

Sujani, an embroidery art of Bihar, is a celebration of the feminine. Using simple running stitch in eye-catching colours, the women depict their stories or portray incidents of everyday life on cloth.

The narrative element might not be present in all the works exhibited here but the motifs definitely bear the imprint of work-worn hands.

But the pick of the collection is Gond art, which is an exuberant expression of different forms of nature. Every piece explains why the exhibition has been so rightly called Flora, Fauna and Spirit.

The sheer joy that is evident in each painting is palpable. Trees, flowers, animals, birds and man co-exist in the harmonious universe of the canvas. However, instead of vegetable dyes, the artists have used acrylics; some of the works are on tussar, which gives the piece a sheen that accentuates the beauty of the fine strokes.

Unlike most tribal artists, many of the Gond artists have signed their name in a break from tradition. Moreover, each artist has a signature stroke or motif that identifies the artist. Clive agrees that commercialisation has made inroads into the innate artistry of the Gond artists.

“Vegetable dyes have been substituted by acrylics. That can be accepted due to the difficulty in procuring such dyes but I simply cannot accept works in glossy colours and in styles that deviate from the traditional strokes of the artists,” says Clive.

One hopes that exhibitions like this provide the artists with a sustainable livelihood and keep their art alive.

The exhibition is on till April 10 at La Gallery 360, at ‘Homestead,' Museum Bains Compound, Nanthencode.

Keywords: art exhibition