It’s a new vision of an ancient tradition. The 400-year-old art form of pichhwai that has narrated stories from Lord Krishna’s life with all its nuanced adroitness, is being revisited by Delhi-based artist Jai Khanna.
Breaking the rut of established design practises, he has given his 30 handmade pichhwais a contemporary baring in a show titled Shrinathji Swaroopam.
These are made on silk and paper with coloured stones. Forest of Krishna, gates of Nathdwara, and Gopashtami are some of the depictions, which are fundamentally based on conventional subjects such as Krishna standing in the kunjas (forests) or sketching the maps of a haveli.
“I have looked at every traditional piece through a modern lens to make them attractive to the young. Also, I understand there may be people who may not relate to old styles of art so I’ve made my pichhwais using new vocabulary in form and colours,” he says.
The forests, a recurrent theme of pichhwais, has been given a modernist formation. He has also used a monochromatic framework for the first time giving his work a fresh appeal.
“Forest pichhwai depictions are inspired by my dreams wherein I see Shrinath Ji being all around me. Where ever I turn, I feel his presence. The forest is also symbolic of my heart where the swaroop (form) of Shrinath Ji originates,” says the artist.
Khanna has been working with pichhwais for 16 years. His quest to learn and perfect the art form started when he was in Grade III. He would draw miniatures of Shrinath Ji without knowing its technical application. But since 1999 he has been taking his guru’s guidance who encourages him to and refresh his skills every few months.
The knowledge I received most recently was to make art suitable for the times. Therefore, I have represented Krishna as a Gopala, Mohana, and Radha Ramana as opposed to the individual representation as Srinathji which is traditionally done,” he shares.
What’s required now is to look at art through the past-present-future lens objectively and subjectively and Khanna, for one has begun following that through this works, including the latest showcase.
Pichhwais originated in Nathdwara near Udaipur, Rajasthan. Vallabhacharya in the 16th century, Founder of the Pushti Marg sect, a subtradition of Vaishnavism, is credited with the introduction of this art form.
He made several intricate religious pictorial representations of Lord Krishna on a cloth to hang them behind the idol as a piece of decoration at the temple of Shrinathji in Nathdwara. The making of pichhwais takes months and are taught as part of the guru-shishya parampara traditionally.
Till: November 15
Time: 11.00 am to 7.00 pm
Where: Gallery Art Centrix, Art Centrix Space, Jain Farm, Behind Sector D2, Vasant Kunj