Sandhya Arvind’s folk and tribal paintings draw the viewer into a colourful world of love and harmony

It is as though a piece of their world has been brought onto the walls, mounted onto wooden boards to be taken away to the homes of people whose lives are so vastly different from those in the Warli and Madhubani regions of Maharashtra-Gujarat and Bihar, respectively.

And Sandhya Arvind, almost lives in their world through these little pieces that she paints, whose imagery, she says, is constantly running through her mind. The paintings are currently on view at ITC Windsor’s art space in an exhibition sponsored by the Gujarat State Lalit Kala Academy. The exhibition features paintings from the Madhubani and Warli traditions.

“I grew up watching my mother paint murals in my village, especially during festivals,” says the Vadodara-based artist. “I have been drawn to these ethnic art forms, which I have been painting since childhood.”

Sandhya’s paintings reflect the traditional themes of these art forms: nature, celebration, and the way of life in the Warli paintings, as well as scenes from Indian mythology in the Madhubani paintings.

“The Warli paintings reflect the rustic lives of the people in the region. They live with their animals, they live in harmony with nature, even with wild animals and give equal importance to its every aspect, even depicting snakes and ants in their paintings,” explains Sandhya who has been exhibiting her work for over 30 years.

Sandhya, shows the practise of X-ray art where there is transparency in the depiction of subject, the fish in the water, for instance, are not hidden. “You will see that the Warli people are happy, even while working.” She also paints their festivities, depicting their gods or goddesses in all their splendour or their wedding rituals.

Her Madhubani paintings, meanwhile, largely depict the lives of the Indian Gods Rama and Krishna and the love they shared whether with their consorts, their people or their devotees.

Rama is shown at the swayamvara with his consort Sita, or standing in the garden with her as maids, waiting a little distance away, hold garlands aloft. And Krishna Leela, the ecstatic dance of Krishna with his gopis or the longing of the gopis and Radha for their beloved are popular themes. Sandhya also paints other themes from Indian mythology, the story of Savitri and Satyavan, the tradition of moon-worship, which could be, she says, the origin behind the tradition of karva-chauth.

Unlike the Warli paintings, points out Sandhya, no space is left blank in the vibrant Madhubani pantings, every inch is filled with decorative motifs, mainly elements from nature.

“When I paint, I place the figures first and then add in the elements from nature whether it is flowers or animal figures. From this I pick a motif to decorate the border, which is integral to the Madhubani painting,” she explains.

Sandhya often works in relief, where the elements in her painting appear embossed. Sometimes she also paints over aluminium foil using glass colours to create a shimmering surface in an attempt to add a refreshing touch to the paintings.

Sandhya Arvind’s exhibition of Warli and Madhubani paintings will be on view at the WelcomArt Gallery, ITC Windsor, until November 6. For details, contact 09898413326.