Myths Reawakened

There’s something of a miniaturist in the fineness of detail on these large canvases by Jayasri Burman, in her biggest solo exhibition till date.
exhibition
Radha
Opekkha (The Wait)
Jalo Yatra

The tab of India’s leading woman artist is once again justifiably conferred on Jayasri Burman, in the wake of her biggest solo show so far. The show, accompanied by the release of a book on her works and persona, has kickstarted the 2010 season grandly. Besides the sheer size of the volume of works, the show is a telling retrospective on the Burman’s art journey. And tracing this course makes viewers connect with the undercurrent of pictorial art, folk themes and mythical legends that come to life on her canvas.

In any other artist’s hands, the chosen amalgamation of Burman’s perspective, comprising the universe of Hindu mythology, woven around the Shakti theme, would have led to repetition of a hackneyed subject matter. For Burman, it awakens the empowerment of womanhood as deified in Shakti, as ritualistically worshipped in Parvati, as a homily of Durga embracing her family of gods within her generous arms, or else the legendary Lakshmi amidst a retinue of aquatic trappings, such as lotuses in bloom, entwining swans and even mythical creatures. Despite being pegged to a folk format, the works have a stunning relevance today, for they awaken a familiar chord about the fantasy world that grandmothers once pieced together in story form, together with a seamless integration into modern times.

Coming to technique and the more-than-life size portrayal of these themes, one is struck by the meticulous finesse of the works. There is something of a painstaking miniaturist peeping through these compositions. The colour palette, too, has an enhancing quality, for in them one can fathom the blue of the water bodies, the ochre dust of the earth, the greying charm of black-on-white works and the precision of needle-like stitchery with which the backdrops have been enlivened. Their secular contextuality, their allegorical overlay and their pictorial appeal reveal that Burman is an artist who does not disappoint her viewers.

A Mythical Universe will run from 14–20 January at Lalit Kala Akademi and from 23 January–13 February at Art Alive Gallery, Delhi.