BENGALURU: In 1971, Lalita Kala Academy selected 11 artists to replicate the wall and ceiling paintings at the Shravanabelagola Math. Today, only three of those artists are alive – Kamalakshi, Pushpa Dravid, and VT Kale from Gadag, and the art is out for the public to view, after at least 45 years at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat until January 30.
“We had to make copies of the murals in 46 days. No addition or enhancement was allowed. If they were chipped or faded, we replicated it,” said artist Pushpa Dravid, former art teacher at Bengaluru University and mother of cricketer Rahul Dravid.
Kamalakshi, general secretary of Chitrakala Parishat and president of Lalita Kala Academy, said, remuneration was paid to artists to replicate the murals as Lalit Kala Academy wanted to preserve the art. The paintings were collected by the academy over 45 years.In 1971, Pushpa recalled she was a professor at Bengaluru University and Kamalakshi was a teacher at Chitrakala Parishat. “It was a time when artistes were less and women artists were even lesser,” said Dravid.
She recalled their time at the site where they were the only two women in the group. “There was no toilet at the time,” she said about the ordeal. However, she did what she enjoyed.“I was allotted a higher section of the wall. I was on scaffolding with a wooden plank for support and had to tilt my head all the time to replicate the painting. I had no historical reference for my painting because I could not read Kannada back then. I just knew I had to replicate the painting to its exact shade and size,” she said.
She painted the Samavasharanam which has images placed in concentric circles, emerging out of the core. “The painting shows all creatures being inspired by the Tirthankaras speech and attaining moksha,” said Kamalakshi.Although we used watercolours, the original paintings were made with non-synthetic paints - natural stones and vegetable dyes. They also used Persian blue colour.
The walls were treated with limestone so the paints do not come off. “When we were replicating the chipped paintings, we realised that many coats of paint were applied to get the right shade. Parts of old paintings got faded because of some damage. That too has been replicated,” she said.
“In 1967, unlike today, there were Mysuru palace artistes. However, there was no college to learn art like there were in Delhi and Mumbai. Few artists such as MTV Acharya (who contributed art to Chandamama magazine) taught art in their houses,” Pushpa Dravid said.
“Our paintings will also serve as references for research work on Jain temple paintings in future,” added Dravid who completed her PhD in 1999. “We now have copies of Ajanta and Ellora too,” she said.
Paintings as tools of conserving murals have an advantage over photographs. “In our paintings, we replicated the original size of the murals,” said Dravid.Mahamastabhisheka, being organised after 12 years, is a great opportunity to view paintings from the Jain Math.