Kolkata: Emami Art, one of India’s leading contemporary art galleries based in Kolkata is presenting Kāru an exhibition of contemporary miniature, tribal and folk art of India. The exhibition features the representative work of the six well-known living masters – Bhuri Bai, Nand Kishor Sharma, Ram Soni, Pavan Mohan Prajapati, Akshay Kumar Bariki and Kalyanmal Sahu – and the skilled artisans working at SHE Kantha , showing innovations in the rich traditions of visual art.
Karu, originated from the Bengali word Karu Kala, means craft or functional art, mostly traditional ones, as opposed to Charu Kala or Fine Art. It refers to the rich indigenous visual traditions for which India has been known for centuries. Each of the artworks featured side by side in the exhibition shows the power of traditional imagery, delicacy of mediums, forms and expressions. Tradition is not a static thing of the past, but something living and connected to the present we live. The terms “folk” and “tribal” art used in the title is simply descriptive and not canonical since we are aware that such categories pigeonhole the artists and prevent them from getting the respect they deserve. In addition to showcasing the artists, the exhibition also aims to raise exciting debates.
The intricate dotted lines and brilliant hues in Bhuri Bai’s paintings bring to the fore not the local fables of the Bhil community depicted through them but also a wave of emotions. The large Pata paintings based on Vaishnava and Jagannath themes by Akshaya Bariki, born to a family of traditional painters in Ragurajpur, Odisha, and the tales of Krishna depicted in the Pichwai paintings by Kalyan Mal Sahu, a largely self-taught artist, enchant our eyes. One can find similar delicacy in showing the devotional contents in Nand Kishor Sharma’s Phad painting and Ram Soni’s fine paper cutting of Sanjhi Art, two unique traditional art forms of Rajasthan and North India. The refined treatments in Mohan Prajapati’s Mughal and Rajasthani styles of miniature paintings contrast the playful, unsophisticated quilt embroideries done by the skilled women artisans of Bengal. In all these diverse artworks on display, the creative energy of India – the distant sound of the earthen drum – reverberates in widely different forms.
“I am delighted to present Karu, an exhibition of contemporary tribal and folk art and miniature paintings of India. Done by the widely recognised artists, the large body of diverse indigenous art from different parts of the country shows the ingenuity of the pre-modern art forms and imaginations, giving us a sense of reassurance in our troubled present. Working within the framework of tradition, the artists are faithful to the heritage but do not imitate the past blindly. In the exhibition, what attracts us are their inventiveness and self-developed ingenuity, which, unlike modern art, are defused and do not dissociate them from the shared traditions. Karu is an astonishment. It is a space for enjoyment, enchantment, and ethical and emotional investment in promoting India’s unique indigenous visual arts.” said Richa Agarwal, CEO Emami Art.
The exhibition is on view from September 4 to October 30 at Emami Art 777.
Born in 1972, Ram Soni is an eminent Sanjhi artist pushing the boundaries of tradition to create a new language. Based in Alwar, Rajasthan, he has been practising the art of paper cuts for a very long time.
‘Sanjhi’ comes from the word ‘Sanjh’, or dusk. Originated about four hundred years ago, Sanjhi was painted with coloured dust to adorn the temple for the evening rituals. These multicoloured paintings required precise papercut stencils, called Khakha. With time and intervention, these papercuts have earned the name of Sanjhi art on their merit. Using a pair of scissors invented and uniquely designed for Sanjhi art by his predecessors, Soni’s intricate and delicate cuts resemble brushstrokes. His works tend to reflect the seasons with the presence of flowers or plants typical to it. Since 2008, Ram Soni has been collaborating with Delhi Craft Council, experimenting with the process, material, and display modes in close connection with the modern market.
A National Award winner of 2002, Soni has received international acclaim, including the UNESCO award in 2012, Shilp Shiromani Award, Delhi in 2008, Shilp Alankrit Award, Jaipur, 2007. In addition, he participated in exhibitions globally, including Indian Heritage Centre, Singapore, 2018, Bahrain Festival, 2017, China Gonjo 2015, Indian Festival Argentina, 2010, Nehru Centre, London, 2000, India Festival, Craft Council India and Zurich, Switzerland, 2008.
She Kantha an organisation based in Kolkata, West Bengal, is patronising and promoting the art of Kantha, made by women artists from rural Bengal, to the international market.
Nakshi Kantha, a unique tradition of needlecraft, had a rather humble origin. As rural women stitched old cotton fabrics to make warm quilts for children, they embroidered fables, epics or tales of deities in what would become a family heirloom. In simple running stitch, a folk imagination created a prolific visual language.
She Kantha is committed to revive and elevate the craft’s stature by enabling the artisans to explore a wider audience. With minimal interference, the organisation facilitates the artisans to design, create, and compose their work while continuing the practice of working as a community. The old quilts have given way to fashion and interior accessories. Often using locally sourced Tussar Silks as base material, the designers draw on their lifelong artisanal experience. She Kantha is promoting over a thousand such artists to a global clientele. Many in the community have started marketing their textiles in several cities in India and beyond, including London, New York, and Greece.