Canvas Sanctuary

Artists in the city see their works as a repository of cultures and traditions that are fast fading.

Written by Rushil Dutta | Published: December 5, 2013 3:14 am

There have been myriad speculations on art and its purpose and whether it has any purpose at all. In Pune,though,artists advocate its purpose in preserving indigenous culture and tradition.

Ramdas Lobhi is a city-based artist who seeks to capture the idyllic essence through his canvases. “I have been traveling to various villages in Gujarat and Maharashtra to learn about their culture and way of living,” says Lobhi,adding,“For example,the most striking facet of the Kutch area is their colourful clothing,which is often made from bright pieces of cloth sewn together. But now lesser people are donning their ethnic clothing. As I see it,an aspect of their culture is slowly dying.”

Lobhi likens this process with the emergence of emails and cell-phones. “Nobody sends letters any longer. In a way,globalisation is similarly affecting endemic cultures in dire ways,” says Lobhi. His paintings,on exhibit at Bliss art gallery,therefore seek to propagate preservation of traditions by portraying their inherent beauty on canvas. He renders his subjects in colourful clothing,which he says “are symbolic of their colourful souls.” This series at Bliss is aptly named Vivid Delights.

Much like Lobhi,Satyajeet Varekar is concerned about the slow demise of certain cultural practices. Being exhibited at Renaissance Art Studio is his Nandi series. “The nandi communities which inhabit parts of Southern Maharashtra such as Sangli,Satara,Kolhapur and Solhapur,are of special interest to me,” says Varekar,adding,“Traditionally,they are fortune tellers and are a defining feature of these regions. But their numbers are rapidly diminishing and I am sure the future generations will have no inkling of them.” Varekar,therefore,seeks to model his canvases as sanctuaries for near-extinct traditions.

The Nandi series sees Varekar instill as much life as he can into his subjects through a vibrant acrylic paint induced colour tone. The bulls are bedecked with multi-hued jewellery and intricate rugs,with complicated designs placed on the bulls’ backs,which he argues is a factual spectacle. In many of his works the bull is accompanied with a herdsman,who adds grace to the overall scheme. With his luxuriant moustache and saffron scarf contrasting his white overalls,the herdsman unassumingly hoards the focal point in the picture.

While Varekar has dedicated an entire series to the Nandi community,Rajshekhar Khollam has immersed himself wholly in the ways of the dhangar (shepherd) communities. He also notices several commonalities between the dhangars and pothraj,gondhal and dombari communities. “These tribes were of immense significance during the freedom struggle. They were nomads and passed through various cities,acting as messengers and in more extreme cases,as smugglers of arms for revolutionaries,” says Khollam.

His works on the dhangar community have been rendered with charcoal and pen on hand-made paper or canvas. “The community is often seen wearing a tika of turmeric and vermilion. It’s symbolism is of paramount importance,” he says,elaborating,“The turmeric tika is acquired at the shrine of Khandoba in Jejuri and the vermilion one at Tulja Bhawani in Tuljapur. The tika symbolises the blessing of the God and the Goddess. It also stimulates the chakra in the head and above all one is viewed as a religious being in a crowd. It serves many purposes.”

The only bit of paint used in Khollam’s mono-chromatic works is to render the tika on his subjects’ foreheads.

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