20 Dec 2018

Traditional Mysore Paintings by Shobana Udayasankar

An exhibition of exquisite traditional Mysore paintings by Shobana Udayasankar previews today at Chitrakala Parishath

The symbolism-rich, intricate Mysore style is a traditional art form, which once graced the temples and palaces of the centuries-old Wodeyar empire. Bangalore based artist, Shobana Udayasankar is committed to keeping the tradition of Mysore art alive and works not only on recreating the most unique of traditional designs, but also aims to innovate through the use of cultural influences from Asia and Europe, experimenting even with abstracts.
Traditional Mysore Paintings by Shobana Udayasankar, Gowri Ganesha, Indian Art Scene
Having started out as an amateur enthusiast, spurred by her interest in preserving the art form, her journey has been a long and rewarding one. Shobana is now set to showcase her collection of traditional Mysore paintings in Bengaluru for the first time ever. Sixty artworks, ranging in size from 8 x 10 inches to multiple pieces that are 4 x 6 feet, along with many intermediate sizes, will be part of the show. Mysore paintings are characterised by high level of detail and fine intricate work and Shobana’s works stand out for their extraordinary rendering.

The works are based on tales and events occurring in various scriptural and mythological texts, including the Puranas. The ‘Samudra Manthana’ or Churning of the Ocean – a metaphorical depiction of the creation of the manifested world that features over fifty individual figures – and ‘The Wedding of Girija (Parvathi) and Shiva’ and ‘Kama-Kameswari’ are examples of deeper philosophical ruminations on the structure of the cosmos that have been presented and preserved for generations as art.

Traditional Mysore Paintings by Shobana Udayasankar, Krishna, Indian Art Scene

Also featured are depictions of gods and goddesses, following the symbolisms and descriptions set out in ancient treatises, including the famed Samudrika-Lakshana – the science of anatomical proportions. ‘Devi Chamundeswari’ serves an example of a more traditional representation of the patron Goddess of the Wodeyar kings.

Traditional Mysore Paintings by Shobana Udayasankar, Devi Chamudeshwari, Indian Art Scene

Shobana aims to inculcate interest in the art form beyond the small traditional circles and make more people aware of the art and develop an appreciation of it. Her own interest was sparked as she grew up hearing many mythological tales from my mother, and growing up, developed a strong interest in spirituality - particularly the deeper meanings in scripture and philosophy - which gave her an affinity for various representations of the divine. “This deepened my interest in more traditional art forms, of which I found that Mysore art was not only less well-known, but it was also a delicate and intricate form, the practice of which was almost a spiritual experience in itself - not unlike meditation. Once I had caught a glimpse of this depth, there was no turning back,” she explains.

Comprising many stages of painstaking and intricate work, including the preparation of the hardboard, the initial sketching, the ‘gesso’ work that provides a subtle embossing, to the pasting of the extremely fragile pure gold leaf and the final painting itself, pieces made following the authentic Mysore school of art take many months of diligent and dedicated effort. It can even take years to finish a large, intricate piece of work. Shobana elaborates, “My recent large-scale work "Lalitha Durbar" is about 4.5 feet by 5.5 feet, and it took me nearly two years to finish.”

Traditional Mysore Paintings by Shobana Udayasankar, evite Indian Art Scene
Based on the premise that India’s rich mythological heritage has a wider audience, as evidenced from the spread and survival of popular themes such as the Ramayana in art forms native to other Asian countries, including Indonesia and Thailand, Shobana has attempted to stretch the boundaries of this art by presenting new compositions that remain true to the original techniques and methods of this art form alongside traditional representations. ‘Rama and Sita’ (Thai style) is one such example of the artist’s contemporary vision. It is her way to appeal to purists as well as those seeking a more dynamic approach to heritage and tradition, thus bridging the gap between the ancient and the modern.

Shobana’s expertise and proficiency in the field was recognized jointly by the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society and the Karnataka Lalitakala Akademi and she was conferred the Millennium Artist Award in the year 2000.

The exhibition is on at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath from 21 - 26 December 2018

Images: Courtesy Shobana Udayasankar

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Updated: Dec 21


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