Art

Painting a message

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Besides highlighting the aesthetics and the beauty of Jain temples, artist Prashant Shah also underlines the life of Gomateshwara, the revered Jain monk whose tall statue in Shravanbelagola makes for a fascinating sight

To take up religious matter for a painting exhibition can be tricky but Prashant Shah is quite up to the challenge. He wants the viewer to only appreciate the art for art’s sake at his two ongoing exhibitions “Homage to Bhagwan Bahubali” and “Masterpieces of Jain Heritage” at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath in Bengaluru. He would rather have a viewer appreciate the ancient heritage of Jain scriptures, the temple icons, sculptures, bas relief for their aesthetics and beauty.

Painting a message

While in “Homage to Bhagwan Bahubali”, he depicts the life of Bahubali, whose statue is perched atop the Vindhyagiri hill in Shravanbelagola, in his second showcase, Prashant shows the portraits of tirthankaras, famous pilgrimage sites, sacred mantras and chants. With the Jains’ revered god Bahubali's mahamastabhishek approaching next month, after a gap of 12 years, Prashant’s exhibition becomes a timely affair.

In fact, after Bengaluru, Prashant will take the show to Shravanbelagola to be showcased during the mega affair. “His life was about ahimsa (non-violence), shanti (peace) and vairagya (renunciation) and I want to spread this message with the art show. He had everything but he gave it all up and became a monk. His father, Adinath, divided the kingdom among his sons. A fight broke out between him and his brother and how they fought was very interesting. They had an eye-fight (staring at each other), jala-yuddha (water fight) and finally bal yuddha (wrestling). Bahubali won all the three but then decided to renounce the world,” narrates the Mumbai-based Prashant.

Painting a message

Bahubali abandoned everything and meditated in standing posture for a year. This is the image that has been immortalised with the 59-foot- high figure also known as Gomateshwara at Shravanbelagola, in Hassan, built in 1981. Prashant depicts significant episodes from Bahubali's life, realistically. From his birth to renunciation, Prashant relates the tale compellingly. And when the artist reaches the Gomateshwara, he tries to capture its complete essence. The narrative goes on to include the interiors of the shrine complex with its classical relief, paintings and exquisite carving, the view of the Vindhyagiri hill from the opposite hill known as Chandragiri. And as Prashant tries to cover all the facets, he doesn't forget to scribble with pen painstakingly on his oils, watercolours and acrylics, for the effect.

Prashant doesn’t claim to know the Jain scriptures in their entirety but for the exhibition, the Gulbarga-born artist dug in a bit. He read Adi Purana, an ancient holy text dealing with the life of Rishabhanatha, the first tirthankara. A Tirthankara is a saviour and spiritual teacher of the dharma and in Jainism there are 24 tirthankaras.

His works on Bhaktamar strota, a Jain prayer, came out of this engagement. He also shows gods and goddesses belonging to two major sects in Jainism - Digambara and Swetambara and also significant sites associated with the two sects. A group of temples in Palithana, Parshwanath Bhagwaan of Sankeshwar, Trinetra Padmavati Mata of Krishnagiri also appear on his canvases.

For the alumni of Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai, it is going to be his first solo show. All these years, he was busy promoting, collecting art by other artists. He also runs an ad agency. “I was doing group shows all this while. The last group show I participated in was held at Bombay Arts Society in 2013 and then for the last six-seven years, I have been preoccupied with this.”

(The exhibition is on at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, till January 17)

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 10:23:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/a-painting-exhibition-exploring-jain-heritage-and-spreading-the-message-of-gomateshwara/article22449888.ece

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