Preserving a rich legacy

Art exhibition

Preserving a rich legacy

A majestic series of oil paintings created by the great-great granddaughter of Raja Ravi Varma, Rukmini Varma, is on display for a month at Gallery g, Lavelle Road.

That the exhibition comes from the lineage of the master painter is what makes it truly prestigious and also the fact that it has been fully sold out even before it was open to the public yesterday.

The owner and founding director of the gallery and also trustee of the Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation, Gitanjali Maini, gives an insight into Rukmini’s solo show, ‘Opulence & Eternity’.

“A lot of well-known artists made their debut at this gallery. Over the years, we increased our activities —  we made serigraphs and even rendered an artistic touch to something like a family history book or biography of a person. However, it then came to my mind that there isn’t anything for Raja Ravi Varma. And a chance meeting with Rukmini in May 2015 made us both realise that we were completely synced about what we wanted to do for the great artist — she for her great-great grandfather and me for India’s foremost artist. That’s how we started the Foundation; she’s the chairperson and I am the CEO,” says Gitanjali.

She adds that since Rukmini is in a spiritual space, a hermit, they had to conduct the Foundation meetings in her home. “Sometimes, I would land up early at Rukmini’s  place and see these unfinished canvasses around. I asked her why they were like that and she told me that she’d given up painting. I immediately took a camera phone, clicked pictures of about 15 canvasses and told her, ‘I want you to finish these aunty.’”

Gitanjali’s main aim, as she explains, was to keep the legacy of Raja Ravi Varma alive. “Whether you look at tribal art or Pattachitra, it’s all done by a family or a community. People don’t approach them on how to learn or do things; if that community vanishes and that artform dies with them, it’s sad. Raja Ravi Varma too treated the skin tones, the jewellery, the faces, the saris and the opulence in his paintings in a certain way. I wanted it all to be preserved as it’s very important for Indian arts and culture.”

Rukmini too gets her visions to paint, like Ravi Varma, and Gitanjali was able to successfully convey the message of continuing the legacy to her. “If you can paint, you should,” she told her. Even as Rukmini said she was nervous, Gitanjali told her in June last year that she was conducting her show in January 2017.

“There was a high level of excitement among people who saw shots of her paintings. She hasn’t spared any effort. She is 77 and lives in an old bungalow with no access to a ladder and a moving staircase. She worked her way around to completing the tall paintings and I really appreciate that. There’s great research that’s gone into her pieces and the depth and details are all visible therein. The preview of the exhibition was a packed house,” expresses
Gitanjali.

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