5 Indian Artists you should know

Notice how the ‘Krishna’ figure is simply drawn-it is almost childlike. The painting brings together aggressive (see the teeth) and calm animals in a peaceful whole. Notice the use of primary colour

The India Art Fair, the country’s largest art show that exhibits paintings of master painters from India and the world, just came to an end in Delhi. An event like this shows us how brilliant and diverse (different) Indian art is. In this Special Report, we will study six Indian artists and try to understand their work. At the end of it, we hope you will be able to recognize their work if you come upon one of their paintings.

Jamini Roy (1887-1972)

jamini
Notice how ‘flat the painting is-it is not three dimensional or life-like. This is a quality that Jamini Roy took from folk art. Objects like this horse also look like folk toys

Jamini Roy was born at the end of the 19th century in a zamindari (a zamindar is a land owner) family in rural Bengal. He grew up playing with folk toys made by local artists, looking at ‘pat’ paintings (a painting style in Bengal of that period) and playing with the children of ‘patuas’ or artists.

Not surprisingly, Jamini Roy the artist was deeply influenced by local tribal art forms. He wanted to capture the spirit of rural life in Bengal. This was unusual in Bengal at a time when society was very westernized with the upper classes imitating the British who then ruled India.  Jamini Roy was also trained in the classical western style of art where paintings look as life-like as possible. But the main theme of his work is the rural, tribal and folk way of life, which made him much more appealing to a larger number of people. He was also one of the first Indian artists people to exhibit his paintings overseas.

Manjit Bawa (1941-2008)

Notice how the ‘Krishna’ figure is simply drawn-it is almost childlike. The painting brings together aggressive (see the teeth) and calm animals in a peaceful whole. Notice the use of primary colour
Notice how the ‘Krishna’ figure is simply drawn-it is almost childlike.
The painting brings together aggressive (see the teeth) and calm animals in a peaceful whole.
Notice the use of primary colour

Manjit Bawa was an artist who grew up in independent India. Like Jamini Roy, he too was influenced by the ‘pat’ paintings. Bawa was also trained in textile (cloth) design and this too influenced some of his work.

Manjit Bawa’s paintings depict an ideal or perfect world, and in that sense it is very child-like and full of peace. It evokes feelings of calm. Some objects in his work may also be distorted (changed) from the way one would expect them to look-this may be done to keep with the ‘simplistic’ nature of the work.

The paintings also suggest the world of god, though not in a religious way. They focus on themes of peace, innocence and love, making us recall the spiritual (as in the opposite of the material world of objects and people) world of the mind and the divine.

Bawa’s paintings stand out with their use of primary colour-these basic colours also echo the artist’s child-like view of the world. Most of Manjit Bawa’s paintings are centered around people with hardly any trees or scenery.

Thota Vaikuntam (born 1942)

From one of the women – The painting contains the typical theme of his work-the Telengana woman From any point – Notice the use of bright, ‘Indian’ colours
From one of the women – The painting contains the typical theme of his work-the Telengana woman
From any point – Notice the use of bright, ‘Indian’ colours

Born in Andhra Pradesh in southern India, Thota Vaikuntam’s paintings show the life of rural India. The simple life of village people and daily rituals are the scenes that his paintings capture.

A common image in his work is that of the Telengana woman, who again represents a slice of the rural society that Vaikuntam celebrates in his work. In his childhood Vaikuntam was fascinated by the male artists who acted as women in the travelling theatres that would roll through the villages of Andhra Pradesh. The vibrancy (brightness) of rural women is what he tries to capture through his paintings.

His work also stands out for the brightness of colours used. Like Bawa, Vaikuntam uses only primary colours. He once explained his reason for this in an interview, “I like using rich primary colours, which give a sense of character and depth to my paintings. Like reds and saffron and even orange, because these are essentially Indian colours. I don’t like using colours that are mix of two, because they are not natural, they don’t exist in surroundings around us, in our everyday life”.

Maya Burman (born (1971)

Notice the level of detail, even on the clothes worn by the people depicted. The painting evokes the feeling of a fairy tale.
Notice the level of detail, even on the clothes worn by the people depicted. The painting evokes the feeling of a fairy tale.

Maya Burman was born into a family of artists-her parents are Sakti Burman and Maite Delteil, both famous painters themselves. But Maya Burman has a unique style that stands apart from other Indian art. Her work is a journey into the world of fantasy and make-believe.

Burman’s paintings reflect the roots of her Indian father and French mother. The work is rich with detail-much like Indian miniature (small) paintings-but are very precise, perhaps due to the fact that she was trained to make accurate drawings as an architect. The paintings also have the look of a European tapestry (a wall hanging made of cloth) with the many details in the painting falling into a symmetrical (balanced/even) pattern.

Her paintings also evoke the world of magic. As she once said, “I find I must enter the fantasy world of children in order to paint.”

Mixed magic: Vinita Dasgupta (born 1983)

Notice the use of canvas rolls-intricately painted small pieces of canvas which are then rolled and glued to the painting.
Notice the use of canvas rolls-intricately painted small pieces of canvas which are then rolled and glued to the painting.

Art has no rules. That’s one of the wonderful things about it. One such artist who has broken from the traditional is Delhi-based Vinita Dasgupta. Instead of two dimensional canvases, Dasgupta uses canvas rolls, jewellery and glass framing to add depth to the stories that the paintings relate. Her paintings reflect her mixed interest in folk art styles as well as more urban, city related themes including cinema and Bollywood.