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Deccan to Delhi: Arpitha Reddy’s Mural-style Paintings at Oct 18-25 Show

In Arts
October 17, 2023

An eight-day exhibition of “modern murals” by Arpitha Reddy is set to begin this Wednesday in the capital, taking forward the aesthetics of the subcontinent’s ancient frescoes by re-creating select plots and figures from Hindu mythology.

The October 18-25 solo show at Bikaner House showcases the Hyderabad-based painter’s take on symbols and elements in ways that update the Puranic spirit of portraying key rituals and goddesses. The 50-odd works mirror the grandeur of the country’s legends, according to art historian Uma Nair, who is curator of the event titled Vishwatma.

The inauguration of the show will have Kuchipudi exponents Raja, Radha and Kaushalya Reddy as chief guests.

The exhibition has, at the start, a series of 16 works that are effectively a study of the quaint and curious ‘Namam’ symbols. Toned in various colours, their line-up shows the vitality of tilaks that grace the forehead.

The genesis is of this section has been a pilgrimage Arpitha made to Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh during the last decade, when she was drawn to the charm of the Namam on the forehead of the temple’s deity of Venkateswara — an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

“An elephant at the processions became the inspiration for the Namam series,” reveals the artist, who is an alumnus of JNFAU College of Fine Arts in Hyderabad and is also trained in Kerala’s temple mural style at the pilgrim town of Guruvayur. “The image of the tilak began to haunt me. The Vishnu Namam is generally a sharp U or a V, but here it had a graceful curvaceous shape hugging the contours of the elephant’s forehead. This became an embodiment of Bhakti on the part of the tuckers which tirelessly lead the procession during the evenings of the temple’s festivities.”

At Bikaner House’s venue in the Main Gallery, a second set of 15 paintings will be an assemblage of auspicious symbols called Sumangala. These unveil the intricate details of symbols such as the lotus, conch shell, chakram, sun and the moon, displaying the felicity of Aripitha, who did her Masters in Drawing and Painting from Hamidia College at Bhopal 14 years ago, having earned an MA in Political Science from Osmania University, Hyderabad in 1996.

The third set would be the famed Dashavataras, a set of 10 paintings following the classical style of narration, but with a contemporary choreography of characters and embellishment of elements.

There are also a set of singular studies, the most important being the Panchmukhi Ganesha, besides a few figurative images that extol the tradition of the murals at the Krishna temple in Guruvayur near Thrissur.

To Uma Nair, the hallmark of the exhibition gleans legends and little epithets even as human experiences vie with the symbolism of flowers and other elements of different hues. “Arpitha’s imagery is suffused with borders and textile elements that reveal her love for the techniques of Andhra’s kalamkari and older textile and handlooms traditions of the Deccan,” she notes. “The intricate details and embellishments of borders, flowers and ornamentation of figures create a conversation of mural traditions, taking them forward to suit contemporary sensibilities too.”

The show will have curatorial talks by the curator, with the aim of particularly benefiting college students.

Arpitha’s art seeks to blend her experience in numerous traditional art-forms including Pata Chitra, Phad, Thangal, Cherial, Tanjore and Kalamkari for two decades. A winner of several awards and honours, she has exhibited her paintings in major cities within the country and Abroad.

Uma Nair, as an eminent art critic based in Delhi, has also been writing on prominent artists the world over for more than three decades.