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The sketches of a genius

SRAVASTI DATTA
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Art Mario’s Karnataka, an exhibition of illustrations of legendary cartoonist Mario Miranda, depicts the soul of Karnataka in wondrous ways

Still lifeMario created magic with his illustrations
Still lifeMario created magic with his illustrations

Acollection of legendary cartoonist Mario Miranda’s illustrations of Karnataka, on display at the Indian Cartoon Gallery, will transport viewers to a massive, often eroding, urban landscape, into factories and industries, to traditional homes and temples, and even to Karnataka’s forests and wildlife habitats.

The exhibition titled Mario’s Karnataka comprises 45 ink sketches of the Karnataka of yore and a developing Karnataka. The sketches were published in The Open Eyes, written by Dom Moraes and commissioned by Chiranjiv Singh.

Mario, with Chiranjiv Singh and Dom Moraes, had travelled across Karnataka in the 1970s. He sketched Karnataka’s architectural wonders such as Hampi, districts such as Mysore and rural areas, besides well-known personalities.

In a fascinating way, which perhaps cannot be described in words, the artist, through these sketches, has captured the soul of the region. Each illustration stands out for its detailing, depth and lighting. The viewer is drawn into the image and the eye travels to every part of the sketch. The illustrations are so life-like that while some appear like realistic paintings, others look like photographs.

Every sketch tells a story. Some illustrations of the city depict that as man builds bigger buildings and better roads, he becomes more and more insignificant in the face of a rapidly-progressing economy. The lascivious expressions on the faces of priests watching a dancer perform further reveals Mario’s genius.

Mario was adept at sketching everything, from buildings to people. There wasn’t anything that his pen did not skilfully capture. “No one can compare to Mario Miranda. He created magic with his illustrations,” says V.G. Narendra, managing trustee of Indian Institute of Cartoonists.

Chiranjiv Singh writes in the exhibition invite of Mario’s ability of drawing anything that caught his attention. “He was amazingly quick. A majority of his drawings were ready before the text.” Singh considers Mario’s illustrations for The Open Eyes as an “independent work, which stands on its own merit, while complementing the text.”

Singh had travelled with Dom Moraes, his wife Leela Naidu and Mario. In fact, Mario’s sketch of a younger looking Chiranjiv and Devaraja Urs, former Chief Minister of Karnataka, is on display too. Mario De Miranda was born in Goa in 1926. It is said that his talent for sketching was discovered early in his life when as a young boy he scribbled on the walls of his home. His mother did not allow him to draw on the walls, and gave him, instead a drawing book. He did not train in sketching and his inborn talent made him a nationally and internationally renowned cartoonist. He died last year, leaving a void within the community of Indian cartoonists.

Mario’s Karnataka will be on display till February 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Indian Cartoon Gallery, Number 1, Midford House, off M.G. Road.

SRAVASTI DATTA

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