Giving a traditional twist to wildlife art

The artistic marvels of Odisha and its rich culture had always had a deep influence on South Delhi-based visual artist Sudarshan Shaw, a native of Bhubaneswar.

Published: 16th June 2022 08:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th June 2022 08:59 AM   |  A+A-

Paintings from Sudarshan Shaw’s ‘My Picture of Divinity’ series . (File Photo)

Paintings from Sudarshan Shaw’s ‘My Picture of Divinity’ series . (File Photo)

Express News Service

The artistic marvels of Odisha and its rich culture had always had a deep influence on South Delhi-based visual artist Sudarshan Shaw, a native of Bhubaneswar. With his maternal grandparents residing in Kolkata, Shaw recalls folk art and traditional, cultural practices being a big part of his upbringing. These influences, in turn, have helped the 28-year-old visual artist develop his signature style—Shaw offers an alternative perspective to folk art and depicts “wonderful stories that come out of our roots”. 

Back to the start 
It was in 2020 when Shaw embarked on the journey of making his first biodiversity map of Odisha in Pattachitra—a cloth-based scroll painting style of Odisha inscribed with mythological narratives. Inspired by the people who inhabit the forests of India and their work towards conserving the natural landscape and heritage, Shaw was keen on contributing to this preservation. “I wanted to create a visual which would talk about our environment and its inhabitants. These stories are simple yet informative in terms of our life and its understanding. It was my way of helping them reach a wider audience who would get to know our art practices, which come from distinct regions with distinct styles,” shares Shaw. 

Talking about modernising folk art, he adds, “Being familiar with the wild spaces and folk art of Odisha, I thought of implementing this in a modern way while providing details about the biodiversity on the same artwork. This way, the map would do justice to both in terms of visual depiction and information display.”

The project took Shaw about two months to complete and had him travel to wilderness regions around the state to gather as much information as possible about Odisha’s culture, biodiversity, people, and flora. “The map was done with a sense of innocence and love for my motherland.

My aim was to try to bring out the not-so-common details regarding any subject,” he says. With the first map being a success, Shaw has moved on to making folk maps of other spaces including Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. While the Odisha map was his pet project, the others have been commissioned by NGOs and state departments, which—like Shaw—are on the path to offer an understanding of our biodiversity to citizens. “This way, people are becoming aware about subjects and situations pertaining to wildlife and our immediate environment. This would, in return, bring out questions that would help in better understanding of our natural world.”

Of all things ‘wild’
An ardent admirer of India’s wildlife and spaces, Shaw’s project, ‘My Picture of Divinity’ is a search for “godliness that lies in the relationship between humble life forms and magnificent systems of sustenance.” The series, which he regularly updates on Instagram (@sudarshan_shaw) features paintings of the wildlife species found in the country and their relationship with their surrounding habitat. “I wanted to overwrite the conventional portraits of gods and bring to light the true ancestors, the teachers—the legendary powers that were inspired from the ways of the wild,” he adds. 

Speaking of the importance of inspiring citizens through his artistic ventures, Shaw concludes, “There are a few things that come naturally to us—music, art, and dance. Using these to source out information is quite effective as they entertain while also representing the subject. My idea was similar—bring out a visual treat as well as information that would spark curiosity in us with regard to our immediate environment.”

India Matters


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