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Strokes of enthusiasm

The Rajasthani Painting Workshop in the city drew quite a few enthusiasts who enjoyed the finer aspects of Rajasthani paintings taught by expert instructors from Udaipur.

KNOTS OF young men and women, and some middle-aged persons crowded the Centenary Exhibition Hall, Government Museum, Chennai last Friday (October 11). Each busily sketching figures from paper-prints of Rajasthani folklore. The young lot comprised visual communication graduates who were animators and wanted some experience in form and colour. The circular room echoed the dull humming of enthusiastic youngsters as they discussed the pictures and drawing these on paper. Some young instructors slipped from one knot to the other, explaining the finer aspects of painting. That no participant even looked up to see who was walking in or out showed the group's total focus.

The Rajasthani painting workshop was jointly organised by the Government Museum, Chennai and the National Museum of Mankind, Bhopal, and each participant had to pay Rs.250 for the 10-day workshop - a song really at Rs.25 a day for expert guidance by instructors from Udaipur. On the first day, there were 25 participants, and the organisers were certain that many more would follow. ``This is the first time we have a tie-up with the Bhopal museum,'' said M. Mohan, special grade curator (education), Government Museum, Chennai.

"There is a flood of western concepts, ideas and attitude, influencing the youth today," said V. Ashok Vardhan, museum assistant, National Museum of Mankind, Bhopal. The subtle influence that changed the preference of youth was at the cost of local culture and heritage. "We are trying to arrest this trend," said Vardhan. There did not seem to be anything wrong with the modern, but the heritage could be lost as summarily as did the traditions of native Americans under relentless pressure from the homestead immigrants from Europe.

"We will be introducing the group to all the sailis (patterns) of Rajasthan. Each is different and the focus varies from style to style," said Satish Sharma from Udaipur, a young instructor. According to some of the visiting faculty, Rajasthani painting was a tradition of nearly 2000 families, most of them belonging to a particular community. Satish's family practised the Mewad saili, where paintings depicted the life of Krishna.

"We use rock-based colours where rock is crushed to fine powder and then mixed with dye. The paintings cannot be protected unless you varnish them or fix them behind glass panels. We use extremely fine brushes made of squirrel hair to draw the fine lines. The cloth base is prepared by soaking it in maida paste and then drying it," said Vardhan.

Some of the participants, who were experienced in animation, had difficulty with the fine lines, hallmark of Rajasthani paintings. Thilaka of Vaishnav College, Arumbakkam who had already attended a workshop on Tanjore paintings, drew the difference between the Tanjore and Rajasthani art while the instructor deftly improved her drawing of a woman. Another young woman, Anbu, joined the workshop because she liked to paint and she was excited as this was her first formal exposure to painting. Ganam P., an animator, was sure that the workshop would help him in his profession, especially to understand and mix colours.

Though the workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there were quite a few enthusiasts on the floor drawing fine lines on paper after the day's session ended. It was an exposure that all were sure would be of use later as artists. Much later the commissioner of the museum, R. Kannan, said, "Where can you find such a workshop offered at such a low price? The one for housewives sometime ago cost each participant about Rs.1000. This workshop was cheap because of the support from the Bhopal museum." The artistically inclined in Chennai could look forward to such a workshop - if they missed it this time.


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