An ensemble of Japanese and Indian art, dance

Remembering Radha

A solo art show, titled ‘Confluence of Form’ was held at the Art Konsult Gallery last week. The exhibition showcased paintings of Singapore-based artist Sunaina Bhalla, who in her latest show, does a retelling of the Gita Govinda, a compositon by the 12th century Sanskrit poet, Jayadeva.

The show was presented in collaboration with Odissi dancer Chitra Shankar interpreting the paintings through dance.

The introduction of the show was given by well known art curator Dr Alka Pande followed by a talk by Bhalla interspersed with a dance demonstration on the confluence of the two art forms of painting and dance. Shankar demonstrated the different ‘moods’ of the poem depicted in Bhalla’s paintings through dance gestures.  

Bhalla who is also heavily influenced by Japanese art, uses mediums and expressions of Indian and Japanese painting interspersed with elements of textile art in which she is primarily trained.

“The miniature tradition of Indian art, and the Japanese Nihonga tradition, both known for their application of flat colours like white, grey, green, golden, silver and black also form Bhalla’s favoured colour palette. The technique of the Nihonga, when brought together with the Indian tradition of miniature paintings, completely changes the scale,” the organisers told Metrolife.

Gita Govinda, itself is an elaborate composition detailing the love Radha had for Lord Krishna. Translated into most modern Indian languages and many European languages, Gita Govinda was composed by Jayadeva in the 12th century, and is considered a very important text of the Bhakti movement. Jayadeva, places Radha above Lord Krishna in his work, the reason being her ‘faithfulness’ towards her true love.

The Nihonga, which translates into ‘Japanese-style paintings’, has an overwhelming influence on Bhalla’s work. Nihonga reinvigorates traditional painting by developing a more modern Japanese style.

Bhalla judiciously combines the two techniques and takes the artwork onto a large format thus bringing  in a novel interpretation of the traditional love play of Radha and Krishna as the nayika bheda in the act of the aesthetic experience of ananada or sublime bliss, the natural fruition of the Advaita philosophy.

It’s fascinating to see how these artists create pictorial languages of their own, using their experiences and geography of where they’re placed to explore questions of culture and identity.

The cross cultural dialogue in her work is intriguing.

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