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Nayika with an electric guitar? A new show casts a fresh look at traditional art

A new exhibition, ‘Indiyart’, showcases works by 30 master artists, who have managed to find the fine balance between heritage and innovation

Detail from 'Lovers' by Viren Bannu
Detail from 'Lovers' by Viren Bannu

At the Bikaner House’s Kalamkaar Gallery, an exquisite black-and-white Warli painting is on display. Titled Naricha Janma by Vijay Mhase, the imagery is intricate—with lush foliage, village scenes, and myths and legends unfurling in a single artwork. Many such works, spanning nine traditional art forms, created by 30 master artists, form a part of ‘Indiyart’. 

This exhibition showcases the diversity of Indian indigenous art, from Warli and Mata ni Pachedi to pichvais, Pabuji ni phad, and Madhubani paintings. The participating artists include Bhuri Bai, Lado Bhai, Venkat Singh Shyam, Malleshram Pausa, Satish Chitara, Anil Vangad, and more. ‘Indiyart’ has been organised by Rooftop, a platform that organises art sessions and workshops for those interested in learning traditional art. Launched in October 2021, this is a community-driven art experiences marketplace, which makes indigenous art accessible to the public. “This app bridges the gap between the artists and art enthusiasts from across the world,” says Kartik Gaggar, chief executive officer and founder, Rooftop. 

The idea of the app emerged from his initial venture, Rajasthan Studio, which focused on curating art and craft experiences for tourists in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur. During the covid-19 pandemic, the enterprise pivoted to the virtual medium through online workshops based on Indian folk and tribal art forms. This has now resulted in Rooftop. 

Also read: The art of ‘phad’ enters a new era

The exhibition, ‘Indiyart’, tries to extend the platform's vision by finding newer narratives within the indigenous art landscape. “In the realm of traditional art, there exists a fusion of tradition and contemporary innovation. Artists, while honouring techniques and styles, are not constrained by the past, but are inspired to adapt to modern concepts and materials,” elaborates Gaggar. He cites the example of Venkat Singh Shyam’s work, which brings together traditional Gond styles with fresh perspectives on pressing contemporary issues. Similarly, Virendra Bannu portrays a traditional nayika alongwith an electric guitar, thereby offering a narrative that would appeal to today’s audience. 

The show features several new works such as the miniature painting by Asharam Meghwal. “It is one of the most expensive artworks in the show and is extremely detailed,” he adds. “The exhibition covers nine art forms from different parts of India. Rather than focusing on just one part of the country, we made sure to introduce art from different regions to understand the popular narratives and styles practised there.” Besides showcasing the artworks, ‘Indiyart’ is also hosting workshops with the master artists. 

Indiyart is on display at the Kalamkaar Gallery, Bikaner House, New Delhi, till 19 September, 11 am to 7 pm

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