Shared heritage of India, Nepal on canvas

Sacred Spaces

Shared heritage of India, Nepal on canvas

On a long vertical panel, the story of the much-loved epic, Ramayana, is narrated through figures etched in charcoal shade.

Replete with motifs of turtle, birds, fishes and other nature elements, this artwork by Uma Shankar Shah is displayed along with the work of Seema Sharma Shah who explores the varied avatars of Gods and Goddesses for the art show ‘Sacred Spaces’.

Presented by Gallerie Ganesha, the exhibition is aptly titled since scenes from the Ramayana and Hindu mythology are revisited by both the Kathmandu-based artists. While Uma remains highly inspired by the Ramayana and creates a series on the same, Seema presents Nava Durga, Krishna Leela and Ganesha in different forms on the same canvas.

And the canvases are big. Be it vertically or horizontally. The Ramayana I etching by Uma is a beautiful play of red hues and Sanskrit shlokas that are striking. Similarly, The Nava Durga II, Dashavatar and Krishna Leela by Seema are outstanding.

Some of the works by Seema are created using the ‘Etching Unique’ technique. Even if one doesn’t read the specifications, there is a visual difference between the normal etchings and unique etchings with the latter having a dominant intrusion of golden colour that enhances these artworks and provides them with a royal look.
In her Ramayana series, Uma portrays Ravana as the traditional firework puppet that is set alight in Dusshera to celebrate the victory of good over evil. Arrows dart across the canvas, the great beasts of war - elephants, horses and chariots - are featured amongst the dead and the wounded.

The artist uses ancient shlokas from Maithali, Avadhi, Bhojpuri and Sanskrit to evoke the mood of this great epic.
A few paintings done with oil on canvas such as the ‘Shanti Yagya’ series are extraordinary and stand out even among such detailed etchings. Representing the symbols of Buddhism, such as the prayer wheel, the artworks in this series by Uma could have been better displayed in the exhibition.
 The work titled Ganesh Dham by Seema is not too clear and one needs to look at it with full concentration whereas the other ‘Ganesh on Lotus’ is created in a beautiful manner and gives the impression of Ganesha idols in ancient temples being recreated on canvas.

In Goddesses, Seema plays with green while in Ramayana VIII, Uma makes use of light brown and orange hues.
 It is interesting to note that both the artists have established themselves as Nepal’s foremost printmakers and their works depict the shared heritage of India and Nepal. The overlapping of printmaking techniques etching, silkscreen, embossing and the use of mixed media by them have resulted in this body of work that surpasses their journey both as pilgrims and artists.

The exhibition is on display at Shridharani Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam, Mandi House till November 14.

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