Sat, 12 Apr 2003

Indian Artistes Network brings cultural richness to Indonesia

Novan Iman Santosa, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

India has one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world as can be seen today from many art forms ranging from architecture and literature to dancing and painting.

Reflections of this can also be found here as India has influenced Indonesian culture right from the early stages of recorded history. The Mahabharata and Ramayana stories, for example, are familiar here especially among the Balinese and Javanese.

In the modern world, it appears that the cultural ties between the two countries have been diminished due to the overwhelming influence of Western culture.

A painting exhibition, Our Roots are Our Wings in the World Trade Center's exhibition hall on Jl. Sudirman, South Jakarta, tries to reconnect both countries through the 106 paintings on display by 60 Indian artists from various backgrounds and employing a wide range of styles. The exhibition was opened on Monday by Indian Ambassador H.K. Singh and will end on Sunday.

This is the first exhibition held by the Indian Artistes Network, which groups a large number of practitioners from various fields ranging from dancing to painting.

"Indonesia is a natural choice for the holding of our first ever exhibition abroad," organizer Ajit Vahadane of the Indian Artistes Network told The Jakarta Post.

"We believe that Indians and Indonesians are blood brothers even though the majority communities in both countries are from different religions."

Ajit added that the religious tolerance displayed by the majority communities in both countries was highly commendable.

In the exhibition, visitors are greeted by a large Ramayana painting by S. Vishwanath, who specializes in traditional painting using natural dyes on silk.

The painting, 115 centimeters by 236 centimeters, tells the full story of King Rama and his wife, Queen Sita. The story centers on Rama's efforts to find Sita, who was abducted by Rahwana.

There is also a smaller Ramayana painting of 44 centimeters by 95 centimeters which narrates the more important episodes of the tale.

Vishwanath's paintings are somewhat similar to Balinese paintings on traditional and religious themes. They are detailed and rich in color and ornament.

Not only that, Vishwanath also has a palm leaf engraving, similar to lontar here, titled Krishna/Kamasutra. The 39- centimeter-by-55-centimeter painting looks like an ordinary painting telling the tale of the famous king Krishna in the Mahabharata tale. It consists of a central picture encircled by 12 round panels that can be opened in two different directions.

If you turn the upper part of the panels, you will see various animals while the lower part panels conceal various positions from the famed Kamasutra.

Other examples of traditional Indian painting are provided by the works of Vinod Purohit and Prakash Kumar.

Purohid mainly works with Rajashtani miniature painting which usually pictures a royal procession with a nobleman riding on a horse with lots of courtiers walking around him. The setting is usually some kind of courtyard with hills and lakes in the background.

His works are so detailed that you need a magnifying glass to see the details, claimed Ajit.

With or without a magnifying glass, Purohid's paintings are awash with intricate detail. For instance, one can almost feel the texture of the clothes wore by the figures in his paintings.

Purohit also uses the Royal Courts stamped paper used during British rule as his medium for painting his Rajashtani miniatures.

The third Indian style is the Tajore emboss style of painting, represented by the work of Kumar, which is dominated by brownish and yellowish hues.

"The real Tajore emboss paintings use golden foil but these are very expensive to produce," Vahadane said.

"The paintings exhibited here use gold paint instead of foil, but there is no compromising as regards quality. The other features remain the same."

Despite the strong influence of traditional painting, there is also a great variety of more contemporary and modern works, including abstract and figurative works.

Devdatta Padekar, for example, exhibits his pastel on paper Fear, which is very expressive.

Meanwhile, a strong study of light is presented by Sudhir Pawar in his oil on canvas, Cityscape, in which he plays with the shadows produced by a city block.

A similar cityscape painting is presented by Deepak Jogdand. His water color on paper My little town, features interesting rough strokes dominated by violet hues.

There are many other contemporary paintings also on display.

"In fact, I have more paintings available but I do not have the money to display them all due to lack of preparation.

"For example, we could not provide visitors with a catalog this time. But, I promise we will do it better next year, with better preparation and more paintings," said Vahadane, who has already secured the use of the World Trade Center's exhibition hall for next year's exhibition.