ART The works of artisans from Rajasthan, Odisha and Andhra are on view at Sankara Hall. Pushpa Chari

Classical, folk and tribal painting forms meet in colourful conclave on canvas, marble, paper, wood and fibre glass to lend pristine or innovative touches to the country’s evolving craft expressions. The art forms from Rajasthan, Phad narrative paintings also from Rajasthan, Saura tribal art of Odisha, Madhubani and Thanjavur paintings and neem wood panels of gods and goddesses, birds and peacocks in heady colours by the artists from Andhra Pradesh are on view at the National Crafts Expo currently on at Sri Sankara Hall, Alwarpet. Phad painter Janak Singh of Jodhpur learnt the craft from his guru Kanhaialal. The traditional Phad painting is a narrative scroll which functions as portable temple and pictorial aid to itinerant bards who roam the country side telling folk tales. Originally painted on thick canvas in orange, red, yellow, black, blue and green, a Phad painting narrates the stories of local heroes - Pabuji and Dev Narain - in vivid vignettes painted in vegetable colours. Today Phad has morphed into wall hangings and includes in its repertoire depictions of Radha Krishna idylls, Ras Leela, royal processions, baaraats, etc. Janak Singh’s oeuvre has vivid Radha Krishna panels in canvas and silk, royal processions complete with camels and horses, etc.

Miniature versions

Janak Singh also paints miniature versions of figures from Phad art as well as figures taken out of Rajput miniatures, beautiful birds and animals on antique stamp paper complete with the seal of erstwhile Jaipur royalty, court orders in archaic Urdu script etc. “I buy centuries-old stamp paper auctioned by the government, which is normally white in colour. I paint over it with a combination of brown and beige colours so that the beauty of the ancient seal and script is visible.” He then paints exquisitely nuanced dancing elephants, birds, deities, Rajput royalty, etc. on the paper with water colours.

Muthukrishnan, retired photographer and artist at the Government Museum, Egmore, and his son Nandakumar are skilled artists in Thanjavur painting, whose array of embossed, gilded and gem encrusted Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga frames lend allure to the exhibition. Muthukrishnan has used his painting and embossing skills to decorate and embellish four ft tall fibre glass sculptures of Pandurang and Pandari Bai, handcrafted by the father-son duo.

The National Crafts Expo, on till April 24, has many items including Rajasthani jharokhas, Sharanpuri furniture and dhokraware artefacts.