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Art That Shines

Thursday, March 22, 2018

It’s an intricate process, one that requires passion and patience, but which yields beautiful results. That’s how Aakriti Patni describes Mysore painting after having spoken with artist Parul Shah about her zeal for the art form

An artist who honours her passion for Mysore painting by throwing herself into the depths of the art, Parul Shah was simply an enigma to talk with. Showcasing her work in her first solo exhibition, her latest collection was exhibited at the lifestyle concept store of Treasures of India, until just last week. We sat down with the artist to learn about her creative process, her inspiration for the paintings and her first solo art show. As we chatted with her, we realised that her zeal for her art was infectious, and soon we felt ourselves falling deeper and deeper into the trenches of Mysore painting.

How did your story with the Mysore painting art form begin?

Although I am a science graduate, I always felt a void when it came to my education... as if there was something missing. But, nature has always had a magnetic appeal in its dichotomy. It is balanced and yet has its own set of unexplained mysteries. Mysore painting, for me, was much like an unexplained mystery and it just happened that I got into the art form.

I had planned to meet a friend one day who was studying in Chitrakala Parishath in Bangalore, and that’s where I came across this art form. The idea that beautiful art can be created using the most natural materials, but without destroying nature, appealed to me. Of course, the inherent divinity of these paintings was a magnet to my spiritual nature. So, in a sense, you could say that I did not choose this art form, but it chose me.

Your paintings often depict Hindu gods and goddesses, as well as stories from Hindu mythology. Do you derive your inspiration from the religion specifically?

Since childhood, I was imbibed with the idea that Hinduism is not just a religion, that it is so much more than a faith that people believe in. It’s an evolving thought process and way of life. Its pluralism seamlessly encompasses different viewpoints. Therefore my depictions of Hindu deities are not idol worship, but embodiments of the teachings of Hindu and Jain cultures. Teachings of equality (be it gender, social, economic or race), compassion, patience and equanimity serve as inspirations for my paintings.

Would you say that there is a spiritual meaning behind each of your paintings?

Most of my Mysore paintings work on two levels. On one level, it is a simple narration of folklore or mythological stories with its obvious moral lessons; but at a deeper level, these paintings depict those qualities that nourish our soul, our physical and social needs such as equanimity, pluralism of thought and patience, which are meant to provide a sense of peace to the people viewing the paintings.

Tell us more about your creative and personal process of painting. As an artist, what do you strive to achieve?

I believe that every artist is a part of society and their work is a reflection of the society they preside in. Just as a product designer fills the physical gap of people in society, as an artist, I am attempting to fill the gap (through my Mysore paintings) that every soul needs.

My paintings attempt to counter the pop culture of self-centredness, rampant consumerism, shortening attention spans and instant gratification with deeper and solid feelings that bring about a sense of peace. Through my paintings, I attempt to convey this subtly with symbolism and self-awareness as opposed to preaching and moralising.

Mysore painting is known to be an intricate process that involves various elements. Tell us a little bit about the techniques used.

Mysore painting is organic. Right from the board to the finished article, everything is handmade. The base of the painting is plywood on which handmade paper is stuck with tamarind paste. The main technique involves the making of the 3D effects on the painting, with the help of ‘jesso,’ a mix of Gamboze, chalk powder and Arabic gum. Other techniques involve the application of gold in the form of sheets. Gold sheets are very fragile and require a particular technique wherein you are required to hold your breath in order to avoid creases on the gold and to achieve a neat and beautiful effect.

The exhibition at Treasures of India marked your first solo art exhibition. What made you decide to finally exhibit your work?

I always wanted to propagate southern culture and wanted Mysore art to reach people. I was not very confident before meeting Rudhra Kapur, the founder of Treasures of India, who saw my paintings and encouraged me to take my work ahead. When a person with impeccable taste and knowledge of the depths of the art world was willing to provide me with a platform to showcase my work, it gave me the confidence to do a solo show. One could not have asked for a better platform than Treasures of India, which truly aspires to promote authentic Indian art forms.

Do you see yourself experimenting and dabbling with other forms of painting in the future?

While I respect other forms of painting, my heart and soul belongs to Mysore painting. The art form has been engraved in my DNA, and the world is yet to appreciate the art form in its entirety. So, there are miles and years to go with this art form. But I would certainly like to experiment with modern techniques and technology in order to give Mysore painting a contemporary touch while keeping its essence intact. For example, I would like to use 3D printing as one of the techniques to make Mysore painting contemporary and appealing.

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