A picture of Krishna plaiting Radha’s hair while the lovers are blissfully lost in conversation in the the lush gardens of Mathura gently reminds the onlooker about the importance of the little intricacies of life. Very different from the traditional paintings of the mythological couple,Vidya Shridharan paints the picture on a plank of wood which is then embossed with gold and semi-precious stones,making it one of her masterpieces in Tanjore art. She is currently displaying her work at an exhibition at The Westin till October 21. Tanjore paintings are also called temple art. This is why only gods and goddesses are painted in this form. The Hindu deities are laden with gold jewellery and their pedestals are glamorously decorated,all this decoration is embossed with gold and real semi precious stones on the painting, Shridharan says. These paintings involve embossing,stone setting and a lot of hardwork and patience, she adds.
Shridharan replaces the canvas with a plank of wood,preferably teak wood,over which she wraps a piece of cloth and makes her painting with water or acrylic colours. After the picture is painted,she embosses the jewellery with 18-carat or 20-carat gold and semi precious stones like rubies,emeralds,garnets and more. These paintings are usually kept at temples and personal ‘mandir’ rooms in homes. Even though the art form involves a lot of creativity,the Tanjore artist is restricted in many ways. Since Tanjore paintings are very expensive,people only pay that much to purchase something which they believe will be auspicious for them, says Shridharan,who mainly paints pictures of Hindu deities.
Ten years ago,when Shridharan saw an exhibition of Tanjore paintings by Banu Krishnan in Chennai,she approached the artist to teach her the art form. I assisted Banu Krishnan in making one or two paintings to learn the knack of the art which I picked up quite fast. One really needs to put their heart and soul into making each painting in this art form and also have a lot of patience. A Tanjore painting might take anything from a week for a small piece,to several months for the bigger pieces, says Shridharan who started her career as an individual artist by making a Tanjore painting of Lord Ganesh. Lord Ganesh is relatively easier to paint as he has lesser yet typical features. Even though this form of art restricts the artist to painting gods and godesses,I have tried my hand at making Tanjore paintings of flora and fauna as well, she describes.
Shridharan is exhibiting a range of her new work that consists of Laxmi and Ganpati paintings along with a few Radha and Krishna Tanjore paintings.