Pretty Pichvai’s

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Nathdwara the home of the famed Srinathji or Krishna is home to an intricate painting art form called Pichvai. These paintings are usually bright coloured and depict scenes from the life of Lord Krishna. Today these paintings are also coveted for their both their aesthetic appeal as well as for being a value added décor to any space. And this is what you will see in ‘Greyscale Pichvais’, an exhibition of contemporary interpretation of Pichvai works curated and directed by Pooja Singhal, Founder of Atelier Tradition & Beyond. The show is a culmination of the atelier’s journey over the last ten years and a reward of her relentless effort to intervene, realign, reimagine and find a new contemporary language whilst retaining the beauty of this traditional technique, skill and art. “What started as small changes in this show came together as a completely new format never shown before in its entirety. The show has 40-50 works. A large section of the show displays versions of a map of the temple. This architectural map, a 400-year old composition, in this show is not only interpreted in greyscale but also in different shapes and scales and broken into pieces that fit like a puzzle and give an impression of the whole. Playing with scale was only made possible by combining the beauty of a pichvai with the scale of a miniature painting. The inclusion of miniature artists in my atelier has led to a juxtaposition of two art practices merging into a language that is completely fresh and new and leaves you with an impression of having experienced an art form that is familiar and yet different,” says Singhal.

Pichvai - Krishna_s Cow_19 x 14 inch (1)
Pichvai – Krishna_s Cow_19 x 14 inch (1)

Having being born and brought up in Udaipur, Singhal grew up surrounded by Pichvais. “As a child when I looked at it I would see multiple paintings in one. When I started the work of revival it almost felt like a spiritual calling that seemed to carve its own path as the journey evolved.” After she spent a considerable time working with handloom as part of the Delhi Crafts Council she delved into all things Indian and the Pichvai still stood out for its intricacies, aesthetics, colours, history and the multiple stories that it managed to hold together. “I also felt that our generation viewed everything traditional as outdated and was very taken up by everything western and contemporary, while in the west, a lot of the most popular museums had beautiful collections of Pichvais. Even though I had never studied this art form it felt familiar and easy to work with.”

Pichvai-Gopasthami_7-x-14-inch
Pichvai-Gopasthami_7-x-14-inch

This will be a showcase of contemporary interpretation of Pichvai works. “Indians today are far more exposed to design and various art forms across the world. There was a time in the Indian Market when contemporary art was possibly the only art that people were aspiring to buy and collect. Traditional art was considered folk and tribal and an inexpensive form of art that was only hung in traditional homes. There has been whole shift towards minimal, clean and contemporary design.” The technique and skill required to make Pichvai is passed down from father to son and thus, becomes a family tradition. It is no longer the case as the younger generation refused the rigour of training to look for greener pastures. “In my Atelier, I have old artists who have done miniature painting. Some of the younger artists were furniture painters and others are Pichvai painters. A mix of these can translate my vision to reality. In the beginning I began to commission a few works for my personal collection with artists through traders and middlemen known to my family and my mother. As we began to get good results I began to experiment and word in the community spread. A lot of artists were out of work, working as vegetable vendors even. The lure of stability and work bought all kinds of artists to the atelier. We choose artists on the basis of skill, eagerness, discipline and trust. The trust and respect needs to be mutual for a long term association,” signs off Singhal.

Pichvai - Krishna as Govinda
Pichvai – Krishna as Govinda
  • What:  ‘Greyscale Pichvais’, an exhibition of contemporary interpretation of Pichvai works Curated & Directed by Pooja Singhal
  • Where: GALLERYSKE, Berlie Street, Langford Town, Bengaluru Tel: 080 4112 0873
  • When: October 12 – November 16, 2019. 11 am to 7 pm (except Sunday & Tuesday)
  • Entry: Entry Free

This story first appeared in Deccan Chronicle Bengaluru dated Oct 11. 2019 here:

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