In the world of imaginary realism

Life-like: “Celebration”

Life-like: “Celebration”  

Artist Raghu Vyas on how he combines the elements of Basholi School of Art with the techniques of Italian Renaissance Art

Raghu Vyas is not just adept at painting different forms and contours but also suffusing them with palpable energy which is palpable. Besides being pleasing to the eye, they make viewers reflect on their backstories. This is evident at his ongoing solo show, “Melange: The Art Of Raghu Vyas”, at Shridharani Art Gallery. Twenty of his works, dealing with diverse themes such as Lord Krishna, Buddha, divinity, Venus, Sikh history, are on display.

Stepping into the gallery, a huge six feet by nine feet work canvas, catches the eye. Called “Celebration”, it depicts Lord Krishna’s return to Dwarka after the victory of Mahabharata. “Enigmatic Shiva”, shows the lord in a meditative posture, and the touching “Guru Nanak Dev at carpenter Lallo’s house”, displays the Guru reaching out to common people.

In an interaction, the seasoned artist talks about how he became an artist, his style, and how Krishna inspires him.

Edited excerpts:

“Guru Nanak Dev at carpenter Lallo's house”

“Guru Nanak Dev at carpenter Lallo's house”  

What made you chose art as a profession?

As a child growing up in Basholi, Jammu and Kashmir, I always admired miniature paintings from the Basholi School of Art. In my school days, I showed a passion for drawing real objects on paper and was drawn towards figurative forms and nature from the very beginning. Over time, the decision to become an artist became really strong. Though self-taught, I am greatly inspired by Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings and European masters like Rembrandt, Raphael, Rubens, and Botticelli. I learnt my technique by visiting and working under different realist artists following the Renaissance technique.

How did you combine Basholi miniature art and Renaissance-style contemporary imaginary realism?

My art is rooted in Basholi School as is evident by the fine detailing in my works. This is visible in the clothes, hair, jewellery, etc shown in the paintings, and this can be seen in miniature paintings also. Also, my colour palette is inspired by miniature art as I use vibrant colours like gold, yellow, red, blue, orange, etc. Thus the “Vishnu Lakshmi”, “Yashodha Krishna”, and “Nav Durga” portray fine jewellery and these hues. The technique used to make these paintings reflects the Renaissance style. The use of light and shade and the depth in the work reflects this style. I use four layers of colours and plan a painting before I begin work on it through the mathematical calculation of the Golden Ratio. Finally, I call it imaginary realism because I visualise the subject in my mind, in my imagination.

In the world of imaginary realism

The artwork “Celebration” highlights fine detailing, scale and craftsmanship…

This is about Krishna’s arrival at Dwarka after the victory in the Kurukshetra war. Realism art needs intricate detailing without which you can’t capture the expressions. Despite the fact that this is a huge work and the forms in it have been done in a miniature style, every character in it stands out. The body language, attire, expressions – everything is clearly visible.

The golden coloured entry gate shows sculptures of Ganesha and Devil’s head – to ward off the evil while the Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s mount, on the pillar, stands guard. The Golden Ratio gives the painting depth thus one sees distant buildings, and crowds celebrating Krishna’s return.

Lord Krishna is a recurring theme in your works…

Krishna has inspired me from my childhood as a God of love and compassion. The stories of Krishna leela are a major part of Basholi miniature art, and I am familiar with them since childhood. I find his life, deeds, playfulness and childlike innocence deeply stimulating; and this amply echoed in the works like “Yashoda Krishna”, “Shrine In The Cupboard”, “Krishna Balram” and others.

How does “Enigmatic Shiva”, highlight God’s varied facets?

Shiva is the creator and destroyer. This painting has Shiva in the foreground as the omnipresent being while the background reflects modern buildings of Banaras and the Kingdom of Ravana, which has gone underwater. So there is both destruction and regeneration. This work is about both change and hope, as seen through Shiva.

What made you choose Sikh Gurus as the subject of your paintings?

“Guru Nanak Dev at carpenter Lallo’s house” depicts Guru’s visit to the poor carpenter’s house where he sat with him and shared his food. The tools reflect Lallo’s profession while the dilapidated hut his poverty, and the Guru’s presence there shows how the Guru treated everybody as equal. The valour of Sikh Gurus has been always inspiring. The painting of Guru Gobind Singh came into being when I saw the replica of a 17th Century painting at Nanded gurdwara in Maharashtra.

What made you use celebrities for your paintings?

I have used Nicole Kidman and Sushmita Sen as models in “The Three Graces” and “Princess of Fantasy”, because viewers can identify them. Many European master-artists have used celebrity faces in the past. “The Three Graces” is about Beauty, Creativity, and Fertility and it has been done historically by classical artists like Raphael, Rubens, and Botticelli.

I find Nicole’s face apt for representing the three graces. Sushmita, reflecting love, affection and the grace and poise of a swan, is appropriate for the “Princess of Fantasy”.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:00:56 AM |

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