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How avians come alive in art

Pavan Kumar H explores how artistes are taking inspiration from the sights and sounds of diverse species of birds around them
Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 23:24 IST

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The avian world is fascinating. The colourful feathers, mesmerising calls and elegant gaits of birds have inspired creative minds to inculcate these distinctive features in their art forms since time immemorial.

Of late, modern artists have been drawing inspiration from these winged creatures to share messages about conservation.

For Carnatic singer Manasi Prasad, the songs of birds have inspired her to come up with a series of concerts titled ‘Wings of Melody’, along with veena artiste Suma Sudhindra. 

“Birds and music have several commonalities. Bird calls might have inspired humans to make music. Carnatic music has a lot of ragas named after birds such as Hamsanada, Garuda Dhvani and others,” she says. 

Her Wings of Melody, which has seen more than ten presentations across Bengaluru, is a tribute to the birds, which play an important role in nature. She says the compositions were created after careful observation, and having listened to the melodies of birds.

It took her team more than three months of observing the birds to understand the high and low keys to synchronise with music. “Unfortunately, not many singing birds are in our surroundings. So, we had to depend on videos to come up with these compositions,” says Manasi.

The seven songs of Wings of Melody focus on the conservation of birds. “It asks humans a question: Why are you taking over the skies and our home through your destructive development?” says Manasi.

If the birds’ melodies inspire Manasi, it is the walking style of some birds, especially swans, which inspire noted Odissi dancer Sharmila Mukerjee. “Everything about birds is fascinating, and for a dancer, their flight and walks teache several dance moves,” she says.

Her presentation of the French classic, ‘Swan Lake’, a love story is about a princess and her friends being cursed to turn into swans and the love between a swan princess and the prince. Swans are often associated with the idea of a lifelong bond between couples, given the birds’ monogamous relationships.

Sharmila choreographed the ballad after observing and understanding the bird for almost two years. “We modified French folklore to the Indian context by including Hamsadavi Raga every time there was a dance performance by the ‘swans’, she says.

In black and white

For Bengaluru-based visual artist Prasad Nataraj, drawing birds is a compelling passion. However, he draws these colourful creatures in black and white. “Irrespective of what colour you draw them in, they still look splendid. Many of them camouflage in nature in order to survive. What is challenging in drawing the birds is that along with the subject, we also need to highlight their habitat. And for this, one needs to have keen observation and an understanding of the bird,” he says.

For Bengaluru-based visual artist Prasad Nataraj, drawing birds is a compelling passion. However, he draws these colourful creatures in black and white. “Irrespective of what colour you draw them in, they still look splendid. Many of them camouflage in nature in order to survive. What is challenging in drawing the birds is that along with the subject, we also need to highlight their habitat. And for this, one needs to use keen observation and have an understanding of the bird,” he says.

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Published 19 June 2024, 23:24 IST

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