India on canvas
Folk and tribal art exhibition at Contemplate Art Gallery in Coimbatore on March 21, 2012. Photo: M. Periasamy | The Hindu
Painting on display at Contemplate Art Gallery Photo:M.Periasamy | The Hindu
Students of Global Pathways School, participating in the art awareness programme at Contemplate Art Gallery in Coimbatore on March 21, 2012, as part of the folk and tribal art exhibition. Photo:M.Periasamy | The Hindu
Folk and tribal art exhibition at Contemplate Art Gallery in Coimbatore on March 21, 2012. Photo:M.Periasamy | The Hindu

“We will talk to you once we finish colouring,” says Vasuki from Global Pathways School. She and a bunch of other children sit surrounded by painting paraphernalia — brushes and poster colours — at the Contemplate Art Gallery. They are here to learn about Indian folk and tribal art. They have already been given a brief on Indian art. They have the outlines of the paintings they must colour, and then match the result with a painting already displayed in the gallery. They are also excited about displaying their masterpieces in the gallery.

There are seven different types of paintings that are on display at the exhibition titled ‘Beyond the Contemporary'. And Bridget Shibu, Manager Admin at Contemplate Art Gallery, has taken the fourth standard students around the gallery to show them the different styles. From Gond paintings, Kalamkari and Madhubani, to Kalighat Patachitra and palm leaf paintings, there is a fair representation of Indian art, both ancient and modern. For instance, there is Basanth's depiction of a Malayali wedding on canvas. It is inspired by the traditional mural art of Kerala. But the painting is contemporary, for the medium used is acrylic.

One of Sanuar Chitrakar's vibrant Patachitras narrates the story of Kali vanquishing the demons. There is a palm leaf painting done by Narayan Das, an artist from Orissa. “The artist cuts palm leaves into equal sized bits,” explains Varsha Salome Devakumar, Gallery Manager at Contemplate. “He clamps them on to a wooden frame. With a sharp iron nib, he etches out designs on the leaf and rubs natural colours on to the etched portions with his fingers.”

Colour me bright

Having grown up in a village, amidst nature, Ramesh Tekam, a Gond artist, reflects that in his paintings. Most of the children point out that they like Tekam's paintings best. They have bold strokes, radiant colours, and animal motifs brimming with dots and dashes. The children are fascinated by the fact that Madhubani and Kalamkari artists have used natural colours in their paintings — black from soot; purple from beetroot; yellow from turmeric, and so on. Santhosh decides then and there that he will go back home and extract red colour from tomatoes, while Sudalai Mani knows where to get his green from — spinach!

There is paper-cutting art too. Gujarati artist Kirti Khatri has created ‘Ajanta' by using a nail cutter. The art works draw a positive reaction from the children. Mohan Prasanth says, “I will go home and tear paper from my sister's notebook to create something like this.” Maruthavarshini says, “My mother is a tailor. I am going to do something with the waste cloth bits.” Lingeshwari is inspired by the Patachitra on Tsunami. “I am going to tell the story of an earthquake through roll painting,” she decides.

Leena Matilda, their resource teacher, is immensely pleased. “These children would not have seen Indian art had it not been for this exhibition,” she says. “We will have activities based on what we saw here, at school. We will extract colours from vegetables and draw paintings based on Indian folk art,” she promises.

There is a ‘Book Wall' in the gallery too. Delightful picture books published by Tara Books (which promotes Indian art) have been put up for sale. You could also purchase Potli painting kits that inform kids about the arts and crafts of the country. Oh, and do not forget to have a look at “Tsunami”, a book in the form of a Patua scroll!

‘Beyond the Contemporary' is on till March 31 at Contemplate Art Gallery, Avanashi Road. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. To know more about the art awareness programme and the exhibition, call: 90951-23567.

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