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JAYA SRI BURM AN A

M Y T H I C A L

U N I V E R S E


A MYTHICAL UNIVERSE


a mythical UNIVERSE JAYASRI BURMAN

Partha Mitter Ina Puri Ashok Vajpeyi Pritish Nandy


Sketch V, Pen & Ink on Paper, 7” x 7”, 2002

Previous page Detail from Ghore-Baire


FOREWORD I have been an avid admirer of Jayasri’s works, ever since the first time I spotted them in a group show in the mid 80s, and it gives me great pleasure to see that a book detailing her artistic journey is getting published. I have, for the past many years, followed her rise in the creative world and it gladdens me to see her achievements. During the course of events I was brought even closer to her artistic endeavours when she and her husband Paresh Maity utilised the Sanskriti Kendra studios to execute some of their larger works. That afforded me the opportunity to view the process through which she conceptualized her works, and I must confess that I have been deeply moved by the dedication, consistency and determination with which she approaches them. My role in the field of arts has only been that of a catalyst, a facilitator, for I am no theoretician of the arts. Consequently when I talk about Jayasri’s works, I can only describe the instinctual connection which I feel towards them. In them I see a reflection of the love and playfulness with which she portrays her subjects. She approaches her gods and goddesses not as deities, but as sakhis, and her women seem like an incarnation of the ashthanayikas. Therefore to me, her works signify all the three yugas of the past, present and future. And it is this reflection of history, myth and ancient texts – an element which transcends time and easy classification, which appeals to me in a very immediate and emphatic manner. I can see that Jayasri’s works have achieved much acclaim, all of which is justly due to her. However, having known her personally for the past so many years I am constantly amazed at how unchanged she is with all the adulation. She continues to be a warm, witty and a beautiful person, much to my delight. I see in Jayasri’s works a sense of integrity, passion and an awareness which seeks to evoke the same in the viewer, and as a follower of the arts I value that deeply. O. P. Jain President, Sanskriti Foundation


CONTENTS

The Art of Jayasri Burman – Partha Mitter

13

Fables, Reflections and History – Ina Puri

33

A Visual Kathasarit – Ashok Vajpeyi

87

A Teller of Tales, a Weaver of Magic – Pritish Nandy

117

Chronology

227

Creative Evolution

235


THE ART OF JAYASRI BURMAN


THE ART OF JAYASRI BURMAN – Partha Mitter

Jayasri Burman has chosen a naïve decorative mode to create her dense and compelling mythological narratives. European Renaissance introduced a qualitative distinction between the ‘low’ decorative arts and the ‘high’ arts of naturalist painting and sculpture. Such distinctions were meaningless in pre-colonial India and were established in our country only in the colonial era. Pioneering nationalist painters, led by Abanindranath Tagore, disavowed naturalist academic art that was disseminated by colonial art schools. They reiterated the flat lines and colours of Indian painting, dismissed by the British Raj as mere decorative art. Jayasri Burman’s mannerist style is a worthy successor to Abanindranath, as mediated through the paintings of Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ram Kinkar Baij and other teachers at the Kala Bhavan in Santiniketan. Her paintings have affinities with printmaking, which is a reflection of her experience with that medium. Jayasri had augmented her experience of Santiniketan with a period at the Visual College of Art in Kolkata, followed by training with a graphic artist in Paris and finally with the renowned printmaker Krishna Reddy.

UNTITLED-5, Watercolour on Board, 48” x 48”, 2006

15


UNTITLED-4, Watercolour on Board, 20” x 20”, 2006

16


Modernism undermined the separation of decorative and fine art by rejecting Renaissance naturalism and by creating the new art of abstraction. While abstract art extolled the purity of line and colour, at the same time it rejected the order, symmetry and balance of decorative design. As a contemporary painter who is well aware of the achievements of modernism, Jayasri steers a sophisticated course through the treacherous waters of representation, decoration and abstraction. She has developed an effective use of flat watercolours, with strong and clear lines and almost no shades, while her backgrounds create a tapestry of dense patterns culled from a whole range of decorative designs. If the first impression is of a traditional folk art format, on a closer examination we notice a strict overall control of the

BAKYOLAAP, Watercolour, Pen & Ink on Board, 10.5” x 9.5”, 2008

17


SHANTA, Pen & Pencil on Paper, 11” x 11.5”, 2007

Photograph by Nemai Ghosh

18


DURGA, Pen & Ink on Board, 15.5” x 15.5”, 2008

formal structure of composition that would please contemporary modernists. Jayasri Burman’s choice of frontal figures with staring eyes in the manner of hieratic art, her crowding of surfaces with figures and the intricate and exquisite details of her fabric and background, and above all, the constant reference to traditional Hindu iconography, invite us to enter the world of our village patuas as well as traditional paintings from other parts of India such as Kerala. Her costumes, trappings and other details are inspired by traditional art such as the turban, the crown (mukuta), or the lotus associated with our gods and goddesses, as are her female figures who are either bare-breasted or wear the short blouse of ancient India (choli) that hark back to the Golden Age of the Guptas. Not only does she invoke Durga, Shiva, Sarasvati and other deities, she reproduces the popular Mahishasuramardini image of the Bengali potters well known from the autumnal Durga Puja festival. Other details include mythical flying creatures such as the kinnari or the naga, the many-hooded serpent popular since

19


untitled Watercolour, Pen & Ink on Board, 15” x 18”, 2007


158


159


Dompotti, Pen & Ink on Board, 15.5” x 15.5”, 2008

188


Ruposhi, Watercolour, Pen & Ink on Board, 24” x 24”, 2009

189

Jayasri Burman: A Mythical Universe  

A Mythical Universe captures the remarkable journey of Jayasri Burman, one of India’s leading women artists, drawing upon her life and art t...

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