A MASTER WALK
Perhaps nothing has been as exciting at BARO as sharing our passion for Traditional and Indigenous Art. These incredible artists are rarely seen at contemporary art galleries, but have an instant connect with almost everyone who sees and experiences their work - and even more, when they hear the stories. Nine of the ten artists here have learnt from forefathers, sometimes going back hundreds of years. Seven of them are acknowledged Masters of their form, ensuring that their art continues to be relevant, and each of the seven a recipient of many national and international awards. The last of the ten is non-traditional, but is hugely influential and has been recognized with invitations to show in museums in both India and abroad.
More than ever before, the organic nature of Master Sculptor Jamnalal’s incredible clay sculpture, from Molela in Rajasthan, makes it relevant and critical to preserve. Mud from the Beas river, dawrigund gum from the local trees, donkey dung to bind the clay and local jala to varnish the ﬁnished piece : all part of what goes in to the traditional votives that are created from coils of 1.5” thick mud ‘ropes' that are kneaded into shape. The votives are of gods, goddesses, animals, and symbols, and normally painted with bright, vegetable colours. Jamnalal has taken his craft to another level : creating anything to a brief, ﬂat 2D sculptures that can stretch any length when broken into square tiles. Collaborating and teaching across the world, he is determined his traditional craft will never die.
View the entire collection here.
For 700 years, this one family from Bhilwara in Rajasthan, were the makers of “Phad” art. A Phad (literally, fold) was a mobile temple, between 15 and 30 ft long, a hand woven coarse cotton cloth that was starched and shone with moonstone, commissioned by a Bhopa, or priest. There are particular colours used, each signifying something, and black is used at the end to outline. The last bit of painting is the eye of the hero - when this is put in, the Phad becomes a Living Being. The story was always of Devnarayan or Pabuji, both folk deities. As the Bhopa narrated the story, singing it out to a rapt audience who watched the cloth unfold, his wife the Bhopi, danced the tale. Master Artist Kalyan took over the mantle of his father who started a school to open the art out to a wider world, and he uses his art as a tool to narrate anything of social signiﬁcance.
Take a look at his collection here.
LALTU & TOGOR CHITRAKAR
Pattachitra artists from Medinipur in Bengal, Laltu and Togor are the new generation of a family that continues the tradition of Patua art that used to create the long scrolls that they sang out as they traveled through villages. They no longer wander, and have adapted the scrolls to modern living where they can be done to size and colour; the accompanying song comes naturally. They have always painted narratives - from mythology, village life and events around the world, and they continue to do that as more and more their art takes on the issues of life : the environment, politics, calamities. Works are done on home made canvas that is backed with old saris, and they have pioneered the neutral coloured paintings that are stunning and contemporary.
View Laltu Chitrakar's collection here
Shola is the inside, or pith, of weeds that grow in the mangrove areas of Bengal, Orissa and Assam. Almost similar to thermacol, it is completely natural and was traditionally used to decorate idols and create the head gear that Bengali brides and grooms still wear. Madhu is a Master craftsmen who is so accomplished with the carving of this malleable, lustrous and spongy substance that he expands his repertoire to create ﬂowers of every kind, birds in ﬂight and several special projects like giant 10 headed Ravans where he created the crowns. His garlands and ﬂowers are almost magical : thin sheets are “pulled” out of the pith and made into tight rolls, which he then carves by hand with a sharp knife, using reeds of bamboo as stalks.
See our collection of shola art here.
PRANAB NARAYAN DAS
Master artist Pranab paints in the Pattachitra idiom of Orissa that originated in the village of Raghurajpur, and his atelier in Puri has developed a style unique to him : instead of the traditional canvas, he paints on tussar silk. The paintings are normally of gods and goddesses, most notably Jagannath, the avatar of Vishnu that is Orissa’s favourite deity. The work is so ﬁne it needs to be done with brushes that are made from the hair of a rat’s tail - singular enough to be treated like a nib. All the pigment is from ground minerals, and most works take months to complete as the detail is so incredible that failing eyesight is a common result. Even though a group works together on a painting, only a Master can do the outline; what is heartening is the popularity of this traditional art with young boys and girls who are apprenticed to Masters and work with great dedication and skill.
Have a look at his work here.
Bhopal. Gonds are the largest group of indigenous Ramesh is a traditional Gond artist, from near people in India, Dravidian in origin, and they stretch across Central India. They have a belief that viewing a good image begets good luck and so they decorate their mud walls and ﬂoors with traditional tattoos and motifs. Everything has a sprit, and so is sacred, and their art reﬂects the intimate connection between them and nature. It is only in the last couple of decades that they have been encouraged to take their art onto paper and canvas, and so they use modern paints to create carefully drawn lines that convey a sense of movement to still images. Dots and dashes are added for more detail and greater movement, strikingly similar to the Aboriginals of Australia, and bright colours are their hallmark. The Tree of Life is their single greatest emblem.
Take a look at his collection here.
Master artist Sanjay is from the Vaghari tribe in Gujerat, once nomadic, who were not allowed into temples, and so created their own shrines wherever they were. These shrines were to the Mother Goddess, and were made from painted cloths joined together, behind the Mother - or "Mata ni Pachedi”. Derived from the Kalamkari style of paintings, the method involves drawing on a cotton cloth with a stick made from a date plant, using natural dyes. The motif of an austere goddess is usually at the centre, with details of mountains, animals, trees, rivers and natural ﬂora. There is a different Goddess for every part of the year. The process is long and involves whole families, from preparing the cloth to dyeing in the ﬂowing waters of the Sabarmati river to drying in the hot sun, and Sanjay has been foremost in his family to make change : adding new colours, greater ﬁnesse and experimenting with contemporary themes.
Have a look at his work here.
Suresh is from Bastar in Chhatisgarh, and is a Master sculptor of Gadwakam, the traditional method of casting metal by the lost wax method. It is ancient and goes all the way back to the iconic “Dancing Girl” of Mohenjo Daro. It is also very difﬁcult and layered : starting with a clay cast, wax is poured over, and it is on this layer of wax that the detailed artistry happens. Another coating of clay goes over this, with a hole at the bottom. When it has set, a ﬁre is lit and the wax melts and ﬂow out of the hole. Into this crevice goes molten metal, and when it ﬁnally hardens, the clay is broken to unveil the sculpture… A process like this means every piece is an original, and making large pieces become very difﬁcult. Suresh now pushes the boundaries of his art by exploring idea of every kind, excelling at the marriage of the traditional with the contemporary.
Wolf are a creative team from Jaipur led by Ritu and Surya Singh, whose entire art practice is based on working with scrap, waste and discards. They create whole public shows that are made of intricate and large installations, all coming together to tell a story based on the social issues they want to highlight. Their work is a true amalgamation of art and conscience, and they attempt to make it as participative as possible, even as elements of each show become artworks that are coveted by collectors. As they gather scrap that is about to be discarded, they ﬁnd things they can transform, and work with traditional artists of all kinds to create art that is utterly original and each unique. Their annual show at BARO has been one of the highlights of our calendar.
Check out their collection here.