Throughout Jayasri Burman’s meticulously detailed works, her love for Indian mythology is apparent. She credits it to her upbringing in Kolkata, which was replete with stories of gods and goddesses surrounded by the Kalighats and the Patachitras. “I was brought up on folklore. My father had a never-ending supply of mythological stories which would often differ from the ones that my daima would tell me. As children, we would sit wide-eyed before idol makers during Durga puja, and our imagination would run wild as we told and retold stories of Durga, Kali, Shakti and Radhe-Krishna to each other,” says Burman.
In a career that spans 30 years, 54-year-old Burman has borrowed from these childhood memories to create works that are based on Indian epics. The artist is back after four years with a new solo show in the city. “A solo is a result of 10 years of your life’s learnings. Experiences take time to translate into your art,” she says. The show, titled “Lila” opens at Jehangir Art Gallery today and will move to Art Musings in December. It sees mythology play out through the different lilas (events) such as the Krishna Lila or Ram Lila from Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Even though the artist’s influences are grounded in tradition, the world that the Shantiniketan-trained Burman paints is a fantasy land — mermaids with long curly tresses resting against lotus trees, an elephant god in flight, or a golden deer with a human head. The animals morph into each other, a product of her child-like imagination. “When I start my work, I think of a simple theme. Like a mother and a child, or a husband and wife. But halfway through my work, they start resembling Parvati and Ganapati or Ram and Sita. So you could say that I borrow these characters and tell my own stories,” says the artist.
In the past seven years, the artist has been trying her hand at another form of art — sculpting. At Lila, she will display for the first time, close to 14 works of bronze that are an extension of her paintings crafted to similar themes. In fact, the painting Lila, has been turned into a large sculpture rich in detail. “With a three-dimensional sculpture, there are many more avenues to use your imagination and recreate a work I would usually paint on a canvas.”