Art in a box

To read this story you would need to open the flaps. Every panel had an intriguing story to tell.

July 04, 2019 02:38 pm | Updated 02:38 pm IST

KAAVAD: A box of stories.

KAAVAD: A box of stories.

The Gujarati artist Gulam Mohammed Sheikh used a story-telling and religious tradition called kaavad to bring his art to the world. A kaavad is a wooden box with doors that open like flaps on all sides.

The flaps or panels have pictures on both sides and can fold like an accordion. Some of them can bend and join together to create new scenes. In the olden days, Rajasthani storytellers wandered the land, singing or reciting their stories with the help of pictures on their kaavad . It was small enough to be carried from place to place.

Modern kaavad

In modern times, artist Gulam Mohammed Sheikh designed a giant kaavad , taller than a man and weighing several tonnes. He had a team of artists to help him. It had several panels painted with figures of people from different religions and countries. Some of the people painted on the panels are historically famous such as Mahatma Gandhi, St. Francis of Assisi, and the poet-saint Kabir. Some are the people he knows, such as his mother and his artist-friend Bhupen Khakhar.

A piece of art that uses more than one medium such as sound, video, space, and photos is called an art installation. Gulam Mohammed Sheikh named his installation Kaavad: Traveling Shrine: Home .

To make each panel of his modern-day kaavad , Sheikh borrowed scenes from some of his earlier paintings. He has also used parts of paintings by other artists such as painters from Italy, Persia, and from Mughal times. He used a combination of oil paints, digital photographs, Photoshop, and Google Earth images.

The central flaps of the kaavad are doors. You can walk into it and out through another pair of doors on the other side. The top of the box has the photograph of a sky, clicked in the artist’s hometown of Baroda.

Just like the kaavad of old times, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh’s kaavad has also travelled to exhibitions in Japan, Korea, Austria and India.

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