Saturday, November 8, 2008

I begin to understand Mithila painting

On a wall in the Delhi Crafts Museum, I spotted a series of paintings done in the Mithila folk style. This is traditionally an art form done by women, painted on the walls of houses, in celebration of major events such as births, marriages and festivals.

Even from afar, the murals were striking. They were large, almost 6-7 feet in height, and spread across the entire wall in a series of arches. Each arch contained one painting. This one below, for instance, shows the Goddess Durga astride her tiger, framed inside an ornamented arch.
.
The colours were bold, and the flat filling-in of colour made the paintings visually stimulating. Below the painting, the artist had signed her name: Shrimati Mundrika Devi, from a village called Jitvarpur in Madhubani District, in the state of Bihar.

When I looked a little closer at the painting, I found myself loving the "double-line" approach. All the outlines were double lines, with the inner portions either left blank, or filled in colour, or filled with little lines. Here's a close-up of one of the small ducks at the top of the mural: see how the double lines and colouring contributes to the rich detailing? Every object in the painting, from the smallest flower, to the largest human, was painted with the same careful attention.
After five minutes of staring closely at small aspects of the painting, I found myself slipping into the shoes of the painter - what was she thinking, Mundrika Devi, when she drew these? Were the walls of her home also filled with these paintings? Did she lose herself in the lines as she painted, did she forget to make dinner? Or did she, as she cooked and tended her house, look again and again at her creation, mentally adding little details?

The more I visualised the life of the painter, the more the painting appealed to me. This was not "Art" as a leisure activity for those with spare time and money. This was art entwined in the daily life, in the very heartbeat of a woman.


This past week, I have been eyeing the walls of my home. I want to do this too, to fill my living space with vibrant strong lines and bold colours. I want to spend time working and reworking pigments, rushing about from corner to corner of a wall, adding a tree here and a bird there, stepping back, drawing again, wandering into the kitchen, wandering back to my walls...working on my email, but wandering back again, always to the colourful wall.

It seems to me that what I really want is to be seduced into a beautiful trance, by the creative and very personal process of decorating my own home. Perhaps that's what Mundrika Devi wanted too.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good Idea.You should try it. I once went into those creative moods wanting to draw on a wall. Didn't dare to do it as it was a rented apartment. Ended up creating a monochrome giraffe with woollen yarn and cellophane tape. Ten years later, I still remember how it felt that day!

[Amod] said...

You should also look at Pithoda paintings from Gujarat. Quite similar to Mithila, for someone like me who doesn't know a bit about art.

What a nice blog, went through earlier posts and it is really a good collection of thoughts and pictures.

Lata said...

Beautiful pictures, I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you.
-Lata

Jasmeet said...

I have been here and have seen the paintings as well, but never knew what they are called or the meaning behind them. Thanks for this really informative post. :)