“Do you know the story of Kirtimukha?” asks artist Anuradha Kabra pointing towards a demon face; it’s a depiction of lord Yama sitting on it, with the pattern of infinity in the background. “This monster was created by a furious lord Shiva, to feed on Rahu who challenged Shiva to give up Parvati. When Rahu apologised, Shiva was appeased, and asked the monster to start eating his own body from the tail. The monster did so until only his head was left; a pleased Shiva named him Kirtimukha and declared he would be at the entrance of all Shiva temples.”
Anuradha has many such mythological stories to share from her exhibits at ‘Ikshana’ in Kalakriti Art Gallery. “Ikshana is a person who can see beyond; Buddha is called Ikshana,” she points out as she walks us through her watercolours.
Mythology and more
Mythological stories abound in Anuradha’s canvases. A blissful Shiva in tandav, with eyes closed and beautiful lotuses all around. “I wanted a soft expression for Shiva not his fierce look; lotus is also a symbol of creation,” she adds. The Raagini series includes seven paintings inspired by seven raags and showcases different forms of Shiv.
Born into a culturally rich family from Jodhpur, Anuradha has made Singapore her home for more than a decade now; while her father Brijbhushuan Kabra was a musician, her mother Kamla Kabra was an artist. Despite the artistic interactions at home, she never took up art. A trip to Amsterdam and the works Van Gogh inspired her to start painting as a career during which she has done shows in Singapore and in Indonesia. Apart from Van Gogh, she follows the works of M C Escher.
As a career woman, Anuradha is an entrepreneur who exported furniture from Jodhpur until she shifted to Singapore. The multi-faceted personality worked as a Hindi teacher and is a trained guide at the Asian Civilisation Museum (ACM) Singapore. “ I wanted to learn about different Asian cultures. Most of the old religions are from Asia and are connected to each other.”
During the seven-month training to be a guide, the volunteers are trained in body language and how to say fewer words. “One might have read 6000 words but one has to concise it to 200 words! We learn to say it short, be factually correct and make it interesting for the tourists,” she explains adding people’s appreciation is the reward for this voluntary exercise. “When happy tourists exclaim they wouldn’t have known anything without the guide, it is satisfactory and is our moment of pride.”
She recalls the anxious moments when she had to take a group of small children on a museum tour. “I had to give a description of Ganesh, Parvati and one Jain painting. I didn’t realise there was a naked apsara statue next to it and the children were focussed on it. I was worried what would I answer if the little ones asked me why was that woman not wearing any clothes,” she recollects with a laugh adding that she decided never to take children to that side of the museum.
Singapore has changed her outlook and helped her perceive life differently. With the maturity and understanding of different cultural issues, she comments India is lost in its own culture. “When one gets exposed to different cultures, one learns to appreciate them. Earlier I thought only India has a rich heritage but China and Egypt have rich heritage too. There is ancient history and glorious heritage everywhere; we are lost in our own thing.”
Ikshana by Anuradha Kabra
WhereKalakriti Art Gallery
WhenTill July 29; 11 am to 7 pm