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Hanging Gods : Devine and landscapes played in Goddess popular art prints/advertisement in 1890 -1940


It was the calendar painting/printed God images that showed me primarily the power of images.
That human like figures stood out entirely in fictional landscapes. These printed images were not
only for worship purpose, but it was a part of Indian fantasy life. In most of the Indian families,
their worships and belonging spaces we can see this. The influence of these popular art prints
still hangs everywhere. Even in the digitized contemporary times the relevance of popularized art
has its own roll.

By the middle of the 19th century, India witnessed the rapid transformation in the visual field,
especially with the increased circulation of pictorial techniques and images from Europe and
elsewhere. It was the time of introduction of technologies of mass reproduction such as
lithographic printing, photography and eventually cinema later. The new inventions in image
making, especially the oleographic and lithograph print lead to the new genre of visual
sensibility. They termed mainly as calendar art/bazaar art. The application of image also
interesting. Here I try to look at some of this popular calendar art prints from the late nineteenth
to the early twenty-first century. My intention is neither to debate one position of changing
aesthetics, medium and content of the visual-print culture in India, nor to give a chronology of
the pictures and construct a cultural history for them. But the objective is to look at this
transformative, and the effect of the visual elements used in this mechanically reproducible arts,
notably, the employ the divine and landscape elements.


Until the 17th century, “visual world” is very less acceptable for all the common people. For
them visual art forms exist in the form of storytelling; popular folk culture, shadow puppets and
traveling theatre etc. It can be said that temple was the centre for these practises (Every one did
not have access to these) The time as we can say, visual world is controlled by everyday
existence. And it is also controlled by specially religious/spaces.

The arrival of modernity changed the characters and the way they experience the world. The
application new ways of life achieving through technology, industry, science etc made impact on
the lives of the people. The industrial revolution made shift in craftsmanship and it leads to
mass-production(circulation). The invention of train, produced changes in the realms of time and
geography. It connects more people and gives access to the more terrains of geography. The use
of technology was another thing. Print and photography produced visual revolution. Through the
help of technology, creating an object become reproducible. Mass production allows
reproduction of the object and all the movements. Transportation revolutionized by the
invention of the train. It changed the factors of the time and geography even the experience of
seeing it. During the time industrial cities started to form and it witnessed the circulation of
images. Image became a household object. Image was accessing, people can own the images.
Images can be prescient too, making material delphic, dreamy notions. Images can be
celebratory, divine, religious, abstract, conceptual, patriotic, or erotic. As in the book “Art in the
age of mechanical reproduction” Benjamin saying- World is collected in images, world is
accepted in images!

The image making: journey of print art in India

Oleograph or Chromolithography is a unique technique used for making colour prints. This
particular technique evolved from Lithography – which is basically a method of printing using a
stone. It was widely used for commercial purposes and was the most popular method for colour
printing till the end of the 19th century. They were widely used everywhere – children’s books,
advertising art, posters, labels etc. While Oleographs started losing their popularity by the end of
the 19th century in the West, they started becoming popular in India.
There was wide spread of prints all over India. Even though in colonial times, prints from the
different regions attracted all over the country. These prints also caused to bring uniformity of
appearance to the goddess figuration, especially Hindu goddess. It is Ravi Varma’s oleograph
prints, and his succeeded realistic-dressed Indian goddess who was a fashionable image objects
by perfecting of western models of representation. In the book “when was modernism” (p.164)
Geetha Kapoor writes: “For all its high-mindedness there is an aspect of farce in the project of
impersonation as undertaken by Ravi Varma. There is as I have already said, Pastiche involved
in his undertaking to translate western classical modes to eastern end. Secondly, the assumption
that one can establish an innocent equation between common place types and imaginary
personages of a divine nature produces mostly charades for the upper class here and elsewhere.
In Ravi Varma’s India there is, in the balance of farce, something progressive as I have also
suggested: a surrogate realism. Ravi Varma’s assumption that real men and women even,
plebeian actors playing the role of God and Goddess may bring classical aspiration in the Indian
renaissance the full force of attraction of a live/actor’s body help to desanify the tradition.

Ravivarma started setting up of one of the earliest lithographic presses in India. His oleographs
and chromolithographs popularized the images of gods and goddesses. Alongside him, there
were several contemporary popular artist like Hem Chander Bhargava, B.G Sharma, L.N
Sharma,Yogendra Rastogi and others whose work became highly popular as a form of visual
mass culture.

Christopher Pinney has observed in his Photos of the Gods (p. 30), the firm quickly discovered
“an enthusiastic market for their images as artefacts in domestic ritual.” Indian buyers wanted
single prints of the gods, for worship, not bound volumes for leisurely perusal. The Calcutta
publisher soon began to issue its chromolithographs individually, as what would later be called
“framing pictures.” From the early firms like the Calcutta Art Studio and Chitrashala Press in
Pune, up to the large contemporary firms like Brijbasi Art Press in Delhi and Mumbai and J. B.
Khanna in Chennai produced lots of goddess prints which are circulated all over the country.

In Fig 1, Raja Ravi Varma shows the moment when Vishwamitra rejects Menaka and baby
Shakuntala, because they remind him of his lapse in spiritual pursuits and his renunciation of
domestic life. Fig 2. M. L. Sharma, “Banadevi with Love-Kush,” mid 20th century (Empire
Calendar Manufacturing, sample calendar poster). Priya Paul Collection, New Delhi

Sublime and mundane: Goddess in the prints

As described in the introduction, the 18 th century visual world controlled by everyday existence,
and religious/spaces also started to change. The printing revolution brings new ways of seeing.
The acceptance of Goddess prints leads to mass production and wide variety of its circulation.
On the one hand, these prints are dominant because they are aligned with the vernacular masses,
and because they try to reformulate popular devotion as a civilisational narrative which is anti-
colonial (eg. Raja Ravi Varma). The mass-cultural forms such as calendar art flourished with the
growth of domestic capitalism, they also are aligned with a semi-official, religious and
vernacular constituency that was decidedly separate from the secular modernist, leftist,
cosmopolitan and English-educated elite.
In this paper I am putting different Goddess prints which were produced and circulated during
the time span of 1890 -1940. Mostly Hindu deities used for these prints. There are advertisement
prints for products like jam, milk, soap, sweet box, calendar, bidi etc. Most of these prints are
printed in calendar format. One character of this art prints , it tried to humanise the gods and
make them more accessible - in a way it leads to artists like Raja Ravi Varma creating human
forms of the Gods and Goddesses that make them accessible to every identity.

Fig:3 Fig:4
Fig3: Vishnu Garuda Vahan is old calendar from 1930. It is made by C&E Mortonfrom
London, England for their product “Jam”. Here Vishnu is seen travelling over Garuda
accompanying with his wife. Size: 20 x 28,Medium: Lithographic Print,Year: 1930
Fig4: In this poster the three gods, the Triple deity of supreme divinity in Hinduism, Brhama,
Vishnu, Shiva appears in the same frame in the wordly landscapes. Standing in the mountain
cliff, plants birds are seen in this poster. Poster made for brocker and commissioned agents.
Their address phone number also mentioned here.

Jyothindra Jain describes in his book, Mumbai’s visual culture was more about the
commodification of products. For example: “Visual marketing campaigns for soap especially
came up in wide and complex social, economic and political contexts. Hindustan Unilever’s
most famous soap brands, Sunlight and Vinolia, became household names all across India from
the 1930s onwards; for promoting these, the company brought out handsome multi-chrome,
single-sheet calendars with images of Hindu divinity, such as Vishnu riding his vehicle Garuda,
flanked by his two consorts, by Ravi Varma"

Fig.5 Fig.6

Fig.5 Ravi Varma, “Lord Vishnu with Two Goddesses on the Anant-Shaiya” (Original
design c. 1900) (Sunlight Soap calendar, 1935). Priya Paul Collection, New Delhi. Here Vishnu
sitting with two goddesses on serpent in the middle of water. Both the wives looking at him but
Vishnu gazes at the viewer. Sunlight soap is seeing out from the box and floating over the water.
Fig 6, It is the same advertisement Vishnu appear here with his wife, but unlike Fig 6, here these
Gods are in the sky over the Garuda, his carrier. The same opened soap can be seen near to these

deities. Printed as a calendar, this God centric poster has introduced advertising models that
might be worshipped as well.

New Landscapes

The prints brought new language as it follows western realism, at the same time it tries to explore
to bring a play between foreground and background on the picture plane.
The popular calendar culture from these centres were broadly around the themes of religious or
dharmic epic scenes, especially Mahabharata and Ramayana idols and religious icons; patriotic
(portraits of national heroes and leaders, past and present) and landscapes etc. It was a illusion
landscapes to convey divergent tenors. The contrivance of lithography and its mass circulation in
Indian consumerist society profoundly transformed the patterns of communication with
individuals, society and with Gods in both private and public spaces. The range of commodities
produced by the post-industrial revolution, capitalist mode of production became intertwined
with images from the new visual culture generated by trade practices of labelling, trademarking
and advertising.

Fig 7 Fig 8
Fig 7. South Indian railways Ltd 1930 tourism promotion poster: It is an interesting
advertisement for the Railway. As it was mentioned before, Introduction of train exposed new

geography terrains and times. This Poster says this language as a cut out image poster
composition with portrait of women standing gazing to the viewer in front of south Indian
landscapes. The figure is on the right side of the poster behind her there is South Indian temple
landscape and it is surrounded by carved temple goddess images.

Fig 8: Prayag: Horlick's Malted Milk, Calendar Ad-1928: A Noble family travel on boat. The
river and an island and fort realistically depicted, but above in the sky Lakshmi appear over one
peacock accompanying by two flying deities. The left side of the deity seeing with saree and the
wings look like angels in the western paintings.

Fig 9 Fig 10

For the foreign companies these Indian deities were making bridge for their products to Indian
houses. Prints keep the language of the realistic western art tradition with Indian deity figuration.
Fig.9: Best wishes from Bombay, Made in Liverpool, UK During festive occasions, merchants
would exchange greeting cards. Chromolithograph prints were also used as greeting cards. Here,
you can see New Year greetings from Meghji Damji and Co, printed in Liverpool. Hindu deities
with the English texts. Fig.10 Mahabharata In another label, also made in Liverpool, We can

see a scene from Mahabharata – Krishna’s fight with Kaliya Naag. Banners, Floral designs, can
see on this deisgn card.

Fig11 Fig12
Fig.11 Morarjee Goculdas S & W Co. Ltd. Mills, Bombay, 1930s
Established in 1871, it was the oldest textile company in India. This label dates back to the late
1930s, when the mill joined the Swadeshi Movement and set up a khaki department. The flag
that Hanuman is hoisting has ‘deshi’ written on it to symbolize the movement.
Fig12 This is a rare advertising print from the National Aniline & Chemical Company, USA,
featuring the Shivaji Maharaj mounted on a horse. Over the course of his life, he engaged in
alliances and hostilities with the Mughal Empire, and also with the British, French and
Portuguese colonial powers. Showing He was a pro-nationalist and hero of the Hindu
community, particularly in the state of Maharahstra.

It can be seen that “Lakshmi” the god of wealth, fortune and prosperity was always appears in
this print art. Lakshmi appears in standing and sitting positions and attributed by various
elements like divine clouds, money, worshipping animals etc. The charming divine landscapes,
the human figurative goddess with their hollow and attributes sublime to the function. Thus the
calendar images also have worshipping purpose. One of the reasons to the wide acceptance of
this calendar art/print ads was its fetishist function it served.

Fig13 Fig14 Fig13 Sri Laxmi Saraswati: Poster for Woodward’s Gripe Water
Fig1 4 Ravi Varma, “Standing Lakshmi,” decorated (Original design c. 1894) (Vinolia Co.
calendar Kondiah Raju & T. S. Subbiah, “Shri Lakshmi,” c. 1970 (Sree Kalaimakal Industries,
Madurai, poster). Davis God Poster Collection at Bard College, USA.

Conclusion: The use of goddess got popularized with the help of new advantages and progress
in technology. “Ravivarma” prints attracted by all kind of people especially Hindu middle class.
The moving of Image was interesting; People can own/buy images at that time. A kind of
Realism widely accepted by people across the country. The two dimensional images of these
Hindu deities also served as “fetishistic” function of the highbrow sensibility of the upwardly
mobile sector of the middle class. The application of goddess with fantasy landscapes in realistic
depiction was accepted widely in that colonial time. The loud colours and dazzling costumes
substituted depth for surface gloss. They are regionally place-able and meant to represent Pan-
Indian type.


When was modernism - Geeta Kapoor
Mumbai visual culture – Jyotindra Jain
Christopher Pinney
Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs,
The Coming of Photography in India
(Panizzi Lectures 2006) and Lessons from Hell: Printing and Punishment in India.
Art and visual culture in india – Gayatri Sinha
Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian Calendar Art - Kajri Jain
Priya Paul Collection, New Delhi

Pictures -Internet

Dancing Bellies; Significance of Pulikali as a popular visual art form/performance art

Pulikali is kind of popular folk art form, appears in kerala during some festival times. It's a kind
of performance where man performer’s body is painted like tiger skin. The face of tiger will be
in the belly of performer. The crews of all these dancing performers does some dancing
movements followed by musical drums. I have worked with pulikali performance team as

a painter to draw tiger on the performers body. Here searching some relevance of this art form and
how it plays in contemporary society. As a play/performance and its significance and other
aspects of it.

Pulikali/ Kaduvakali is a folk art form performed during Onam festival season of kerala. In
Malayalam “Puli” means Tiger and “Kali” means Play. In Trichur town Pulikali competition
held every year during during Onam festival. Hundreds of males with huge bellies and children
wearing tiger masks take part in this tiger dance,thase forms a key element of the popular harvest
festival of onam in kerala. It is a colourful recreation folk art from the state of kerala, and also a
performance of trained artists to entertain people on the occasion of Onam, an annual harvest
festival celebrated mainly in the Indian state of kerala. Literal meaning of Pulikali is the “ Play of

the tigers” hence the performance revolve around the theme of tiger hunting. The group
comprises predominantly male tigers with few female and child leopards. Since wearing masks,
there is no significance for facial expressions. Men with potbellies shake it and dance, which is
real fun to watch.

Pulikali - Origin and History:
We cannot say, when was the beginning of pulikali? It is assumed that the origin of pulikali starts
from over two hundred years, when the Maharaja of Cochin, is said to have introduced the folk
art, who wanted to celebrate Onam with a dance that reflect wild and macho spirit of the force.
Later muslim soldiers of the British Army stationed in thrissur in the army cantonment
area(Pattalam road) used to celeberate with great favour. Maybe it was the celebration of
“Muharam”. Along with celebrations, they used to perform the art form decked as tigers with
peculiar steps resembling the tiger, then known as “Pulikettikali”which was immensely enjoyed
by the locals. Pulikali in thrissur is held in memory of this event. There are other art forms is
shown in various places which have a similarity of “Pulikali”. The man appears as like tiger and
doing the dance is a common archetypal imagery and it exists in many places as through various
art forms!The man vs animal is a cultural imagerie, it can be seen in starting of human evolution
history. The seals found from Harappa, Mohenjo daro showing interesting relationship with man
and tiger.

Regional and popular:
The festival attracts thousands of people to the Thrissur city. Thrissur also known as the cultural
capital of kerala because of its cultural, spiritual and religious learning towards history. The city
derives its historical importance from when chritianity, Isalam and Judaism entered into the
Indian subcontinent. Thomas the Apostle set foot here 2,000 years ago.(Ad 51-52). The
country’s first mosque, Cheraman Juma Masjid, opened in AD629. It has opened the gate of

Arab, Roman, Portuguese, Dutch and English. Even though Pulikali have a connection to Onam-
Hindu religion, it was celebrated mostly by all people. It is not a temple/priest ritual.

There are changes took place in Pulikali. In the early days, masks were not used at all and
participant would have themselves painted, all over, on their faces as well. But now ready made
masks, cosmetic teeth, tongues, beards and mustaches are used by the participants along with the
paint on their bodies. The tiger also wear a broad belt with jingles around their waist.
The festival in thrissur has now become an all peoples event with huge response from people,
especially youths who come forward to participate in the festival, and also from sponsors. The
event is organised by Pulikali Co-ordination committee, a unified council of pulikali groups
formed in 2004 in Thrissur to preserve and propagate the art in all its true hues and tones.
The thrissur municipal corporation give a grant to each pulikali troupe. On the fourth day of
Onam celebration (Nalam Onam), performers painted like tigers and hunters in bright
yellow,Red, and black dance to the beats of instruments like uduku and thakil. “ Chenda is used
for this. It is called Asura vadhya” / Instruments of monsters”. Scenes such as the tiger praying
on an animal, and a tiger being hunted by a game-hunter are enacted beautifully in between.
Thousands of spectators line the streets enjoying the dance, cheering the dancers some of them
even trying to join in. The different troops vie with each other to make the best floats as well as
the dressed tigers.

These teams accompanied by 2-4 tableaus goes around the city in a procession dancing all their
way, entertaining thousands of people gathered to watch them. These floats are done in back side
of decorated lorry. Mythical,religious, Political and socio-contemporary issues came as subject
matter in this lorry floats..

Body: Performance :expression-
They popularised the folk genre with steps and body language peculiar to a tiger being stalked by

a hunter, enacting a play of the hunter and the beast. A striking feature of this folk art is the
colourful appearance of the performers. Generally it is the local people who was the performer.
A particular combination of temporara powder and the varnish or enamel is used to make the
paint. First of all, the dancers remove the hair from the body, and then base coat of paint applied
on them. It took two to three hours for the coating to dry. After that, the second coat of paint is
applied with enhanced design. This entres procedure takes at least five to seven hours.
A large number of artists gather to apply paint on the “tigers”. It is meticulous process and often
starts from the wee hours in the morning. By afternoon the pulikali groups or ‘sangams’ as they
are called, from all four corners of city moves in a procession, dancing bouncing and shaking
their bellies to the beat of the drums through the streets of the city

The folk art is mainly practiced in thrissur district of kerala. In that day pulikali troupes from all
over the district assemble to display their skills. Anyone can large belly, can become a
performer. The main requisite quality of performer is his stomach, but here stomach work for the
man . Bigger and bulkier is in demand as a protuberant stomach gives the feline face a definite
depth and menace and a realistic visual. In that day pulikali troupes from all over the district
assemble to display their skillsWhen I spoke to the pulikali team they said that they also called
for films, advertisements and other religious and cultural festivals. The people from below

middle class are always ready to come as pulikali performer. Mostly people from normal
proletarian class appears to be the performer. The inhabitants of “ Pulikali is mainly held in city
of city festival which made by local, it seems more like a it is not under the religious and worship
system urban, moreover it has tribal quality, which is more popular and general. Normally men
are used to taking the role of “tiger”. Tiger face is depicted in the belly of the performer; actually
it is the performance of body in the public.....

There are many interesting features/elements can find in pulikali as a popular art form. As a
visual art form, the man/animal imageries from this play can see many roots in other art forms
and cultural imageries. A folk character by nature it is stand out from other traditional so called
art forms but popular by nature it can considered as streams of visual popular art stream. Painted
imageries and performances, it claim always with its transe in nature and the scope and area of
performing arts. The one noted characteristic of this art form is its socio level appearance,
subaltern secularist in nature.

Myth and Reality- Studies in the formation of Indian culture
- damodar dharmanand kosambi
J.M. Kenoyer, Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, p. 167.

The myriad ways of image making entangles and weaves complex layers of the conscious, the unconscious, the real and the fictional. Artists-Ananda Krishnan, Midhun and Shahanshah each work with such layered concepts of space - albeit each in his own way. Through their artistic practices they try to articulate the vague, the constantly transmuting, the non-articulated emotions that lie deep and layered within the self

Ananda Krishnan uses the trope of mapping and cartography to formulate art works, which while appearing as maps - interestingly non-functional - actually come out as paintings. This very process of turning a map into a painting itself 'maps' the process of the creating of art. Thus the final work transforms the noun 'map' into its own verb: an articulated process needed to express the emotions that he wants to bring on to the canvas. It is this two dimensional medium which suggests the constant emotional changes and transformations that he wishes to explore and display.

Midhun diverges from this technique - he actually layers the works with a physicality whose immediacy cannot be denied. The surface of his work itself becomes the ground for expressions and contestations. One sees layers and layers of paper stuck onto the surface- the surface of struggle and interchanging depths. The individual layers bring in the parts and components of existence to represent social existence, existential angst, fragmentation and the complex ways in which we unify all these to create a life. Midhun thus explores the unity that is required to be created, so that both nature and art, consciousness and life can exist.

Shahanshah essentially sees the world as layers of disturbed, as well as, disturbing, spaces. To him collage is what best represents such a world. On the face of it, we are confronted by disturbed chaotic pictorial spaces when we stand before his works. Slowly Shahanshah's intervention into such a world emerges through his monochromatic palette, the sense of freedom he allows objects to move in and out of the spaces, subtly hiding what does not fit in, accentuating what does and is affirming and beautiful, and finally allowing the viewers freedom to interpret each aspect with his or her own experiences. His works thus move towards harmonising the found and existent chaos of this world.

Curated by Gourmoni Das

Text By - Midhun Gopi

Sudhir Patwardhan: A Retrospective

Artist sudhir patwardhan was one of the senior living contemporary artists. I have seen his paintings from studentship days in old art catalogues/books from my college library.

The shabby arrested houses, crowds in the city, the building construction etc always coming to his canvas. It shows a painted “Mumbai city” life for outsiders. The big canvas sizes scattered but arrested imageries together in very realistic depicted paintings always made attachments to the paintings .The show, curated by Nancy Adajania and supported by The Guild art gallery, displays more than 200 paintings at NGMA mumbai. The retrospective covers distinct phases of Patwardhan’s career. His Marxist phase during the textile strikes of the ’70s and ’80s, the Bombay riots, the onslaught of globalisation in the ’90s, and the breaking up of unions. In his most recent work, he has trained his eye away from the street to his own space, to produce biographical works that deal with being an artist, the working of an artist’s studio, ageing and family.


By a respective, it was get a chance to meet the artist’s over all work span and a trip to to his visual journey. Small scale drawings to big framed large canvas structures sudhir patwardhan number of works always inspiring to any creative minded people. As a doctor by profession he always portrays humans with its all mute saturations. The huge NGMA exhibition hall is loaded with patwardhans painted people where some places we can see some of his paintings and the exhibition places also. In the starting he has used to display painting in places like schools, auditoriums local and public spaces. Some of this documentation of that process also displayed there. The huge space of NGMA covered with artists all body of work oeuvre, which I feel, the curator can be more selective instead putting up all over the work, because some of the display needs to be more to do with curative sense especially the and the video installation on the top


More Sweetly Play The Dance' :William Kentridg

When I saw the art work of William Kentridge's immersive 8-channel video installation 'More Sweetly Play The Dance', I remembered a comment of another artist Chritsian Boltansky. According to him the difference between a painting and a movie is “time”. A movie gives a time span to the viewer but a painting doesn’t. When we define two dimensional mediums like a painting and movie, unconnected threads always show up. But I can see Kentridges work a common thread to connect these two mediums. In the write up it says that the artist started making drawing-based films in the 1980s during the late, turbulent years of South African apartheid. He initially created charcoal sketches of a handful of characters, which he developed into a series of nine stop-motion animation (Nine drawings for projections) that trace his gradual drawing of erasing and re-drawing of forms on paper. The ravaging consequences of the modern world’s global crises such as war, poverty and hunger are still a reality in many places. The South African’s work is a processional project casting silhouetted figures stepping and dancing in line to the sounds of a brass band across eight screens. The 15-minute visuals in one loop essay figures carrying objects made from cutouts of the artist’s own drawings including portraits of historically significant figures, cages, plants, and an array of human belongings (ranging from bathtubs to suitcases). These scenes soon depart from a lively parade, as the load-bearing characters recall recent images of refugees migrating to escape the atrocities in their homelands. All of these activities are as moving as theatricity signifying the migration of all over the world. There is a linear progression from left to right across the eight screens, and people entering the screens as others leave”. The intentionally political marked artwork is visually appealing to the viewer.

In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit


Shilpa Gupta’s installation at the 2018 Biennale titled For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit is a multi-channel sound installation that gives voice to 100 poets from around the world who have been imprisoned for their poetry and their beliefs. Shilpa Gupta’s work in aspirin hall is an installation work with one hundred microphones hanging above hundred metal rods. Each piercing a piece of poetry while it plays at the same time. All the authors of these poems have been imprisoned for their poetry or politics. Poems have become an inspiration for sculptures and paintings. Shilapa’s work was a kind of installation and new media language. I don’t how to categorize it, whether as a post-feminist art or new media art or just as a trans-disciplinary art. Here object/poem is not coming from a self-centered illusion world. Poems/objects are making shadows. In an interview she talks about shadows/defining the shadows. Shadowing signifies absence of that object; that object may be anything: a language or a medium or a state or may be our own consciousness. Shadows include meaning to create a world as well. Poems work in two types in Shilpas works. One is in exhibits in words in the language form. Second is the absence which she put in her medium. Her function or meaning is changing. It is not just for a writing thing.  But it's becoming a creative interaction also. Normally microphone functions as the medium to carry voice. But here microphone becomes source of own voice.

These are some lines from one poem:

I want to fly high above in the sky

Don’t push me anyway

We shall all fly high above in the sky

I want to fly high above in your sky

Can you let it be only your power and not yours greed

A part of me will die by your side taking you with me.

High high above in the sky

While you sleep, I shall wake up and fly.

Lavanya Mani | Signs Taken for Wonders 


It was an exhibition of paintings by artist Lavanya Mani. In the gallery visiting tie there was an artist talk with the audience. This revealed to us a deeper understanding of her art and practice. While studying painting at M.S.U. Baroda, Mani began researching craft and textile techniques from around the country and specifically became fascinated with the Kalamkari technique. She is one of the contemporary women artist in India who uses the traditional domestic craft techniques to explore histories, trade, social dynamics. Even though she is not from a weevers family, Mani uses Kalamkari technique which is replete with its own history, and Lavanya layers the fabric with her manifestations of historic and miniature references combined with contemporaneity, providing her audience with an optic of both the past and the present signs. Taken for Wonders is often regarded as the root of the quest for knowledge. Wonders can be 'extraordinary phenomena', an emotional state or a curious experience. The best-known manifestation of early modern wonder was the curiosity cabinet, often called Kunstkammer or Wunderkammer, or 'wonder-rooms'. In the new body of work, the use of colours is rich, and the paintings are filled with multispecies. The life of shells, herbarium, underwater life, snakes, fossils - a world when multispecies had more agency. She collected these motifs from illustrations found in history books and moral stories.

The works in this show straddle myth, science, nature, art and history. Much like the cabinet of curiosities, and through the use of natural dyeing and handcrafting, they attempt to draw attention to the complex systemic phenomena that comprise a living planet. In the exhibition note it writes, As Donna Haraway says, “Earth/Gaia is both maker and destroyer, and is not a resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment. Earth/terra is made up of ongoing multispecies stories and practices of becoming — within times that remain at stake, in precarious times, in which the world is not finished and the sky has not fallen — yet.” Lavanya Mani’s works explore the multi-layered role that dyed and printed textiles have played in the history of colonial trade, the establishment of colonialism and the economics of political dominion and imperialism in India, while simultaneously drawing attention to the historical time when high-art and craft became opposing categories that needed to be defined against each other in order to validate their existence.

Making Space

The show is conducted by Saloni Doshi curator and owner of Space 118. Completing ten years as a residency space, Space 118 has collaborated with Sakshi Gallery with the exhibition aptly titled Making Space. This show was a special for me, a big show with a number of artists were participated.I have been taking part in this exhibition as one of the artists among them, all these artists has been working with space 118 in their residency space. The 39 nine artists come across with different range of works paintings, sculptural, installation, photography etc. The show happened in sakshi galleries new space, where the two floors were filled with entire artworks.

Curator displayed works in thematic way the works which have commonness in nature various mediums works are mixedly displayed. And in the corner of one place there is a display space for space118 residency where they displayed, about the residency their work and practise. The brochure, the past activities details etc kept there.The totality of display more than the curatorial text frame for the show, it works in how a residency space can extend their work and their practise. “Making space” thus the shows title extends collective art practise and display.

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