Timeless Traditions: Enthralling Indian Art Forms

Artist Lakshmi Krishnamurthy brings to fore the gods and goddesses in line with Hindu traditions, exploring several mediums and styles of Indian art forms.

By Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Chennai-based Lakshmi exhibited her work in Bangalore under the patronage of the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Baby Krishna With Butter (1985) by UnknownSandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Inspired by the Old

Ancient artistic practices like Tanjore Painting and Glass Painting have influenced most Indian artists. Artistic styles like Tanjore-inspired reverse glass painting have played a huge role in shaping the personal aesthetic of artists, especially those from South India.

Nataraja Tandavam (1985) by UnknownSandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Shiva Tandava

A popular depiction of Lord Shiva performing the Tandava. There are several versions of this. Performed with joy it is called Ananda Tandava, when done in anger or violent mood it is referred to as Rudra Tandava. This work done on reverse glass is more than 75 years old.  

Painted using natural dyes, this work has been marginally embellished to resemble its more opulent cousin, the Tanjore painting. 

Vishnu and His Consorts (1985) by UnknownSandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Vishnu

One of the most popular themes of ancient Indian art, this painting of Lord Vishnu shows him flanked by his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi.

Such renditions of this extremely popular Vaishnava deity were most often found in the puja rooms of Hindu homes across South India. 

Goddess Saraswati (1985) by UnknownSandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Saraswati

A 100-odd year old reverse glass painting of Goddess Saraswati. Though it doesn't have any intricate detailing, it is however a typical image that was part of a compulsory set of Hindu iconography in most South Indian homes.

Works done in similar styles have inspired and influenced later day artists to merge different styles of art and create new mediums of expression.

Saraswati in Modern Tanjore Style (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The Beginnings

Lakshmi Krishnamurthy, a gifted alumnus of the Kalakshetra Foundation is better known as Lakki in her hometown of Chennai. Having been brought up in sylvan surroundings in Thanjavur during her early formative  years influenced the artist in myriad ways.

Timeless Traditions: Lakshmi Krishnamurthy Speaks (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The Connection

Artist Lakshmi Krishnamurthy talks about her association with the SGMF and how a chance meeting with Gitanjali went on to become a treasured project.

Timeless Traditions: Lakshmi Krishnamurthy Speaks (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The artist plays a vital role not only as an intuitive creator, but has far a bigger responsibility, a contextual role. The various Indian art forms always convey far more meaning and depth, making the interpretation on the viewer’s side both subjective and objective. 

Saraswati in Modern Tanjore Style (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Goddess Saraswati

This image of Goddess Saraswati uses the terraverte colour (mixing blues and browns) with smoked and real mirrors at the back, to convey radiating gestures while enhancing the visualisation. 

The Patina or aged look and subtlety comes from the hues of natural colours and the use of precious stones as embellishments. 

Lakshmi in Modern Tanjore Style (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Goddess Lakshmi

Tanjore paintings are characterised by rich and vivid colours and simple iconic composition. Glittering gold foils overlaid on delicate, but extensive gesso work and inlay of glass beads and pieces coupled with semi-precious gems highlight the work.

Here the artist has mixed techniques like Tempera wash on board; the embellishments have been done in Tanjore style.

Celestial Wedding in Traditional Tanjore Style (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Celestial Wedding

This composition, done on a wood panel measuring 84 inches by 48 inches, was used as the backdrop for the wedding of the artist's son in Chennai several years ago. Done in traditional Tanjore style, this work is aptly titled 'Celestial Wedding'.

Celestial Wedding in Traditional Tanjore Style (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The details on the work, done on original 23.75 carat gold foil, have retained their lustre even after all these years. Every embellishment on the work has been done using precious stones like rubies, emerald, and synthetic diamonds.

Freshwater pearls have been used to enhance the jewellery adorning the figures in the artwork. Arches and umbrellas, typical to Tanjore paintings, have been recreated in this work.

The artist has tried to recreate a wedding scene, with all the major Hindu Gods and Goddesses alongside, to witness and bless the solemn occasion.

In typical Tanjore style, the characters are elaborately embellished with rich garments and ornaments. In keeping with another trait specific to  this style, the prominent figures are bigger, while the ones that are smaller are either of lesser importance or status.

The artist renders the wedding scene complete with her portrayal of other subjects, ostensibly the companions or servitors of the bride..

Timeless Traditions: Lakshmi Krishnamurthy Speaks (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Lakshmi Krishnamurthy explains how she took up the art. The yearning for all things traditional, rooted in Agamas (a collection of scriptures of several Hindu devotional schools), iconographic code and art history kindled the fire within her to pursue research in these fields.

Supported by the India Heritage Research Foundation, Lakshmi, a freelance research scholar, restorer, artist and guru to many who have sought to learn Traditional Art Forms from her, was also in-charge of the Visual Arts Department, Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai. Through her artistic journey, Lakshmi has been focussed on creating awareness on the various Indian art forms with the single minded vision of not relegating them to museum shelves alone.

Glass Painting of Rathi (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The Eternal Love Story

The story of Rathi and Manmatha as told by artist Lakshmi Krishnamurthy. She paints these celestial characters in Reverse Glass technique, inspired by the Mughal Miniature style of painting.

Notice the manner in which the artist has cleverly mixed these different artistic styles to create a unique rendition of Rathi.

Glass Painting of Manmatha (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The artist has cleverly captured the details of Manmatha's mount in traditional Tanjore style of depiction. 

The intricate detailing on the parrots body, its plumage and vibrant colour are inspired by the opulence and grander of Tanjore-style works.

Travelling Temple in Tempera Style (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Travelling Temple

Guided by works of the old masters, artist Lakshmi Krishnamurthy has endeavoured to work within the dictums of iconographic codes, historical and mythological implications, endowing it with new expressions using Pan-Indian Traditional Art forms.

The artist has used an ancient window frame that was salvaged from a heritage house. She has painted Hindu deities on their vahanas or vehicles in the six window panels.

One panel depicts Lord Shiva with an unusual vahanKama the parrot. Then there is Lord Vishnu on the giant bird Garuda. Similarly Lord Karthikeyan can be seen with the peacock and Lord Ganesha has been painted astride an elephant.

Mithila Painting, Madhubani by Shanti DeviCrafts Museum

Madhubani Art

Lakshmi Krishnamurthy is well versed in most Indian art forms, including Madhubani or Mithila-style of painting.

Exemplar of Madhubani Art (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Madhubani

Madhubani paintings were initially created by women from the Mithila region of Bihar, hence this form of art is also called Mithila painting.  The paintings were traditionally done on freshly plastered mud walls, but now they are done on a variety of mediums.

Ram, Sita & Lakshman

Madhubani paintings depict people and their association with nature and scenes from the ancient epics. In this painting Ram, Sita and Lakshman are being ferried across the river by Guhan, as they start their period of exile in the forest.

Generally, no space is left empty; the gaps are filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds, and even geometric designs.Natural objects like the sun, the moon, and religious plants like tulsi are also widely painted, along with scenes from the royal court and social events. 

Patachitra Painting by Akshaya Kumar Bariki, Sushanta Kumar Mohapatra, Narayan Pradhan and Mahindra MalikCrafts Museum

Pattachitra

Pattachitra style of painting is one of the oldest and most popular art forms of Odisha. The name Pattachitra has evolved from the Sanskrit words patta, meaning canvas, and chitra, meaning picture. 

Example of Patachitra Painting (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Pattachitra

Pattachitra is a term for cloth-based scroll painting. Known for its intricate details, as well as mythological and folk narratives, this art form was originally used as a visual device during performances of songs.

Some of the popular themes are Thia Badhia - depiction of the temple of Jagannath; Krishna Lila - enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna; Dasabatara Patti - the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu; Panchamukhi - depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity.   

Bhil Art by Lado Bai and daughter AnitaCrafts Museum

Pithora Art

Pithora is a highly ritualistic painting done on the walls by the Rathwa and Bhilala tribes who live in central Gujarat. Pithora paintings are executed on three inner walls of their houses. 

Exemplar of Patachitra Art (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Pithora

These paintings have significance in their lives and it is believed executing the Pithora paintings in their homes brings peace, prosperity and happiness. The painting usually floods the entire wall with figures.

An array of horses and riders glide across the walls in this ritualistic art form. The paintings describe a scene of one asking for a boon, or offering thanks to God one that was granted. The works are always high with religious fervour.

Indian Miniature (2013-01-01/2013-05-31) by Maryam MirzaeiThe Prince's Foundation

Mughal Miniature

Miniature art thrived under the Mughal rulers, stylistically embracing themes like religion, culture and tradition. Persian influences crept into the Indian miniature art forms, giving rise to a new, rich and detailed style called Mughal Miniature.

Exemplar of Miniature Painting (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Mughal Miniature

As the name suggests, miniature paintings are colourful handmade paintings very small in size. One of the outstanding features of these paintings is the intricate brushwork which contributes to their unique identity. 

Goddess Saraswati- In Miniature

Here the artist has reinterpreted the Mughal Miniature style of painting be using an alternate medium like Tempera to create this work. Goddess Saraswati can be seen on her swan with her veena in hand.

The colours used in the paintings are derived from various natural sources like vegetables, indigo, precious stones, gold and silver. The most common theme used in miniature paintings of India comprises ragas or a pattern of musical notes, and mythological stories. 

The tradition of miniature paintings was taken forward by the artists of various Rajasthani schools of painting, including the Kishangarh, Bundi Jaipur, Mewar and Marwar. Here the artist retains the  original technique and style of painting seen in old masters. 

Warli Painting Warli Painting by Rajesh Chaitya Vangad, Balu LadkeCrafts Museum

Warli - Energy Circle

A form of tribal art that originated from the indigenous people who inhabited northern parts of the Sahyadari Range in Maharashtra, Warli is one of the most popularly practiced traditional art forms today.

Exemplar of Warli Art (2019) by Lakshmi KrishnamurthySandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Warli

A sense of movement permeates Warli paintings. These rudimentary wall paintings use a set of basic geometric shapes: a circle, a triangle, and a square. These shapes are symbolic of different elements of nature.

The circle and the triangle come from their observation of nature. Their belief, that death is merely the beginning of a new cycle of life, gives rise to spiral movements with an interplay of geometric lines, giving a strong dynamic character to their style.

Credits: Story

Content & Curation: Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation
Information Sources: Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation & Lakshmi Krishnamurthy, Chennai
Images: Copyright of the artist, gallery g, Bangalore and Private Collectors
Video: Lantern Films

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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