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Wednesday, Aug 20, 2003

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When walls turn canvas

An exclusive preserve of women, the Madhubani paintings have moved out from Mithila homes to mesmerise the world with their stunning colours and concept.

THE SHEER colour and folk magic of Madhubani art leapt from the walls of Mithila homes into world consciousness some 40 years ago when an American art historian wandered into a Madhubani village hamlet and took back with her a sheaf of reproductions of the wall paintings specially done for her by the village women. It took the world by storm and continues to cast a spell whether done on wall, paper or sari, yardage or soft furnishings. With its rich symbolism, which draws inspiration from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as well as rural life, flora and fauna, each Madhubani painting is also a highly individualistic conceptual statement by the artist, making it literally the only one of its kind. It is still done with natural dyes extracted from flower, fruit, bark and root with the fabled `line drawing' that is executed with a wooden pen with nib dipped in chimney soot mixed with cattle urine, water or goats milk. It is also an art, which is the exclusive preserve of women.

Lakshmi Devi from Darbhanga district is one such traditional artist whose work and that of her mahila sanstha is being showcased in an exhibition and sale at the Design Store. Her work is outstanding and colours and motifs seem to come to life with a delightful spontaneity. A select range of paper and cloth wall hangings, framed vignettes from the Epics, saris, dupattas, madeups and yardage are on display. While the coloured Madhubani dazzle with their compositions of brilliant yellows, oranges and greens, the compelling starkness of the black and white line drawings make each of Lakshmi Devi's pieces a work of art. The motifs and legends are exquisitely delineated whether it is a large wall painting depicting village life, a tender vignette drawn from Krishna Leela or floral depictions on sari and dupatta. The saris and dupattas charm with their subtlety and muted art work. Bedspreads and cushion covers featuring Madhubani motifs such as stylised flowers and animals, as well as a profusion of flowers bring a touch of folk magic to the exhibition. Also on display are exquisitely painted table mats, Madhubani art hair clips and other bric a brac.

Lakshmi Devi, who visits Chennai frequently, also undertakes orders for wall paintings done directly on the walls in the traditional manner. In fact, many Chennai homes already have turned a canvas for her.

The Madhubani exhibition cum sale at the Design Store is on till August 25.


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