Innovative art

HALF THE wall of the pooja room is taken up by a large painting of Lord Venkatachalapathi, done in the Thanjavur style in the home of Pushpa and Ramesh. It is Pushpa's handiwork. She took to this art form, while she lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, where her husband was employed.

What is really interesting is Pushpa's innovative ideas in using this technique to create some unusual images. Normally, one associates Thanjavur paintings with the same Baby Krishna with the butter pot, Krishna with the Gopis, Ganesha, Sri Rama Pattabhishekam and a few others. "I was tired of repeating the same images. That is why I thought of some fresh ideas", says Pushpa.

As one stands at the entrance to the pooja room, one is arrested by the design of a big dome on a vertical panel, at a height of about 6 ft. Similarly, on both sides of the doorway, on vertical panels, are medallions with the images of various Vahanas (vehicles) of the Hindu deities used in temple festivals, like Nandi, Garuda etc.

Even as a school student in Madurai, Pushpa was good at copying pictures from magazines and photographs. When she got married, her husband encouraged her to paint again and she translated into water colours and oil, some of the landscapes he had photographed in the Himalayas and elsewhere. But she had no idea of the actual technique. Her proud possession is a portrait she did holding her baby, in oil.

When she moved to Jakarta, she met a South Indian lady who taught her the art of Thanjavur painting. After returning to Chennai, she took some guidance from another artist. Her application of colours is even and smooth and the fixing of the gold leaf and semi-precious stones is neat.

She also learnt from an art student how to paint still-life in oils and from Lalitha Thyagarajan, the technique of painting landscapes. Some of the paintings hanging on the walls of her home reveal her mastery over reproducing works of European masters.

Pushpa has envisaged an interesting project for the future. "I plan to apply the Thanjavur technique to create images from Ramayana and Mahabharatha as well as Buddhist stories in the Balinese and Thai versions of the epics. The images will be typically Balinese and Thai in theme, while the technique will be Thanjavur". Can we look forward to an exhibition later this year?